Mosul refugee numbers mount amid humanitarian crisis

Monday, 20 March 2017 15:03

An Iraqi relief official has warned of the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation at refugee camps amid a surge in the number of civilians fleeing western Mosul, where Iraqi forces are fighting to dislodge Daesh terrorists from the area.

“The humanitarian situation for refugees from western Mosul is worsening,” Iyad Rafed of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society told Anadolu Agency on Monday.

“The number of refugees fleeing the fighting continues to mount,” he said. “Rains and bad weather are aggravating the situation.”

In mid-February, Iraqi forces -- backed by a U.S.-led air coalition -- began fresh operations aimed at ousting Daesh from western Mosul, their last stronghold in the northern city.

The offensive is part of a wider campaign launched last October to retake the entire city, which Daesh overran in mid-2014.

According to Iraq’s Migration Ministry, a total of 355,000 civilians have fled Mosul since last October.

In a Monday statement, the ministry said that some 181,000 refugees had fled from the western side of Mosul alone.

It went on to note that some 81,000 of these had since returned to their homes in areas of the city recently “liberated” by Iraqi forces.

According to Rafed, the process of transferring refugees to camps near Mosul frequently faces delays.

“There is no room for more refugees at the Hammam al-Alil displacement camp southeast of Mosul, which currently houses 4,000 families,” he said.

The UN now expects the exodus of another 400,000 people from western Mosul as a result of the army’s ongoing anti-Daesh offensive in the city.

Last week, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Lise Grande warned that the UN lacked sufficient resources to contain the anticipated exodus.

“The number of people [fleeing the city] is higher than expected,” Grande told journalists in New York via videoconference from Iraq.

“If the pace accelerates further,” she said, “it’s going to stretch us to the breaking point.”

In a related development Monday, six foreign Daesh leaders were reportedly killed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in western Mosul, according to the Iraqi Defense Ministry.

In mid-2014, Daesh overran vast swathes of territory in both northern and western Iraq, including Mosul.