Thousands of Syrian refugees have crossed into the Iraqi Kurdistan Region from Syrian Kurdish areas, following the reopening of the Peshkhabur border crossing on Saturday. Unconfirmed reports said that between 5,000 and 10,000 people have crossed the Syria–Iraqi Kurdistan border.
The crossing was closed when fighting erupted in the area at the start of the Syrian crisis. It was intended to stop a flood of refugees into the area; however, pressure from political forces inside and outside the Kurdistan Region forced the regional government to reopen the crossing.
Official sources speaking on the condition of anonymity said: “The regional government is currently working on housing the refugees in temporary accommodation near the cities of Erbil and Suleimaniyah until something more suitable is found.”
Zerkar Mostafa, the governor of the Khubat municipality near Erbil, said in a statement to the press that “since Thursday, around 5,000 Kurdish Syrians have arrived in the city of Erbil and have been directed to mosques and schools as a temporary measure.” He said the municipality was working in tandem with the interior ministry and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to build a camp to house these refugees in the Kurkousk area.
The influx of refugees has raised the regional government’s concerns about its ability to absorb the number of people arriving in the area, because it lacks the resources to provide for them.
The Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) said on Saturday that the number of refugees leaving Syrian Kurdish areas was causing concern. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a leading figure in the PYD told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we asked for the crossing to be reopened for trade only, and we did not expect—nor did we ask—to allow the refugees to cross in such a frightening way. Because if the migration continues, there will be no Kurdish people left in Western Kurdistan (Syria).”
He added: “We do not want to encourage migration and mass exodus, and in order to avoid an escalation in the crisis, we call on the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government to reopen the crossing only for trade, and to open safe passages to transfer humanitarian and international aid.”