Erbil calls on oil companies to help in Syrian refugee crisis
On Thursday, Iraq’s Kurdistan Region called on oil companies operating in the autonomous enclave for financial help to cope with some 200 000 mostly Syrian-Kurdish refugees from the Syrian civil war next door.
At a meeting in Erbil with several oil companies who pledged to provide emergency relief for the refugees, a statement by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said it hoped that $50 million could be raised through the effort.
“It is hoped that an additional $50 million of funds can be raised by the companies through their own industry-wide effort,” the statement said.
The meeting was held between the Ministry of Natural Resources and oil companies in the region following a request by the KRG’s Council of Ministers.
The oil companies are “long-term partners of the Kurdistan Region that can play a role in contributing to the relief efforts,” the statement added.
“Their assistance will make a big difference to the lives and well-being of the refugees and also help the communities in which they are located,” Ashti Hawrami, the minister of natural resources, said.
The KRG is struggling with a huge influx of refugees, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates at more than 200 000.
It is estimated that the KRG has given $10 million in fuel supplies and around $25 million of capacity-building funds for emergency assistance.
Iraqi Kurdistan was overwhelmed by a flood of refugees when it reopened a border crossing last month and was hit by some 50 000 new arrivals.
To deal with the flow and provide housing and supplies, the KRG and UNHCR opened new camps to accommodate them, but providing aid and supplies has become a problem.
Recently, more than 100 tons of emergency supplies were provided by the United Nations with the help of funding from the Kuwaiti government, but supplies have been running short.
William Tall, the head of the UNHCR in Kurdistan, told the oil companies at the meeting that now was a very important time to chip in, as winter is approaching and more refugees are coming in daily.
“The situation is not sustainable without further help,” Tall said during the meeting.
He also cited similar initiatives taken by oil companies to aid in the Azerbaijan refugee crisis, which amounts to approximately 800 000 displaced persons as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
There are a total of two million displaced refugees from the Syrian civil war in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and the Kurdistan Region, according to the UNHCR.
“The KRG, international aid agencies, NGOs and local citizens have all risen to the challenge posed by such a large influx of displaced people, but more is needed in the way of prac- tical aid to help the Kurdistan Region cope with the scale of the crisis,” the statement said.
“Although the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) has already allocated $10 million in fuel supplies and some $25 million of capacity-building funds for emergency assistance, given the huge scale of the crisis and the number of refugees arriving daily, we all need to work together to provide more urgently needed help.”