Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Syrian refugees flee in larger numbers than expected

As Kitabat explains, Nouri al-Maliki has yielded to international pressure (actually, to international shaming) and is backing off his previous stance and now allowing Syrian refugees (not just Iraqis returning from Syria) into Iraq.  AFP notes that the plan now is for "camps at two of its three border crossings with Syria."  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated last month that the US equivalent of $193 million was needed to assist refugees from Syria.  That figure may be revised shortly because there's a larger number than expected seeking shelter in surrounding countries of Jordna, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.  Last week, UNHCR's Adrian Edwards noted, "The number of Syrian refugees registered or assisted by UNHCR in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey has almost tripled since April 2012 and now stands at 112,000.  Three quarters are women and children.  This actual number of Syrian refugees is thought to be significantly higher, as many people seek to be registered only when they run out of resources."

Last week, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, told the UN Security Council that he'd visited the Syrian refugee camp in the KRG (semi-autonomous region of Iraq, controlled by the Kurds) and that the number of refugees in the camp was 7,000.  Kitabat notes that Syrian Kurds are especially choosing to flee Syria for the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq.  While many are fleeing Syria, the number of Iraqis fleeing is about 10% (possibly less -- it's around 10% of the official number of Iraqi refugees in Syria).  Yesterday UNHCR's Melissa Fleming declared, "The violence in Syria has prompted over ten thousand Iraqi refugees to return home since Wednesday last week.  Many of the returnees have expressed their fear regarding the ongoing risks to their safety in Iraq, but said that they had little choice, given the security threats in Syria."  Ammar Karim (AFP) reports that the returning "find themselves returning to a homeland where basic services remain poor and unemployment and housing costs are still high."  Widow Faatin Mohammed Hussein is quoted stating, "Life is much easier in Syria than in Iraq.  There you can live in a house for $200 a month, and finding a job is easy.  Here, finding work is difficult, and housing is very expensive.  Where can I work to provide food for my son and daughter?"

The political crisis continues in Iraq.  All Iraq News notes that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi hosted a meeting of his political slate last night but that details on the meeting weren't know.  They add that Nouri al-Maliki met with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq yesterday (al-Mutlaq is a member of Iraqiya).

AKnews states, "An Iraqi legal expert said he is counting on the results of the efforts of the parliamentary committee responsible for monitoring the oil disputes between Baghdad and Erbil after visiting and meeting with officials in the Ministry of Natural Resources in the Kurdistan Region, adding that the crisis will be resolved during the next two days."  That may be but this All Iraq News report where ExxonMobil's accused of violating Iraq's sovereignty and more by an MP close to Nouri doesn't make it appear to be a sure thing.  In October, ExxonMobil and the KRG entered into an oil agreement which has enraged Nouri.  Now Chevron's followed ExxonMobil's lead and signed an oil deal with the KRG. Yesterday, Reuters noted, "Iraq hit out at Chevron Corp over its just-signed oil contract with Kurdistan, barring it from any oil agreements with the centeral government in a move meant to deter other companies from dealing directly with the semi-autonomous northern region."

And Bob Filner's speaking -- I'm at the joint Armed Services Committee and House Veterans Committee hearing -- and I need to take notes on this hearing so that's it for this entry.

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