Up to 10,000 Syrian refugees flock into Iraqi Kurdistan
The UN says that thousands of refugees have poured into Iraqi Kurdistan from Syria over the last three days as authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) struggle to cope with the influx.
10,000 Syrian Kurds had crossed the bridge on Saturday according to the UN, on top of the 7,000 who were thought to have travelled through since Thursday.
Syrian families have been taking advantage of a newly built pontoon bridge at Peshkhabour on the river Tigris to flee the war-torn country.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is one of the biggest single waves of refugees since the beginning of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad in March 2011 that have left more 100,000 dead .
The reasons behind this sudden exile are unclear. The UN and activists said that many may have fled their homes fearing persecution and torture from Islamic militants now controlling large parts of Northern Syria.
Recent clashes between jihadists of the anti-Assad al-Nusra front and Kurdish militias have left dozens dead as the different rebel factions battling against Syrian government forces are increasingly divided and fight between themselves for control.
“The factors allowing this sudden movement are not fully clear to us at this stage and as of this morning we are not seeing further large-scale crossings,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards had told reporters in Geneva on Friday.
The UN said it was working with the Iraqi Kurdistan government and other agencies to establish a camp at nearby Darashakran.
The sudden influx has raised questions on the ability of the Iraqi government to deal with the fallout from the neighbouring conflicts as 150,000 Syrians are already registered in the country. Baghdad requested assistance from the international community and military help form the US to cope with the influx of refugees.
“We have no electricity no water and no food. We could not bring anything with us except our clothes,” said one of the refugees on Press TV.
Almost two million Syrians are now registered as refugees or applied for registration in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt.
The influx comes as UN inspectors arrive in the Damascus to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons.