Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:08 pm (KSA) 16:08 pm (GMT)

More than four million Iraqis displaced: UNHCR

Shanty towns are mushrooming due to lack of resources
Shanty towns are mushrooming due to lack of resources

The situation in Iraq continues to worsen, with more than 2 million Iraqis now believed to be displaced inside the country and another 2.2 million sheltering in neighboring states, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Wednesday

Calls for increased international support for governments in the region have so far brought few results, and access to social services for Iraqis remains limited. Most of the burden is so far being carried by Jordan and Syria.

The situation in Iraq continues to worsen, with more than 2 million Iraqis now believed to be displaced inside the country and another 2.2 million sheltering in neighboring states, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Wednesday

Calls for increased international support for governments in the region have so far brought few results, and access to social services for Iraqis remains limited. Most of the burden is so far being carried by Jordan and Syria.

The number of Iraqis displaced since a surge in violence after the bombing of a Shiite shrine in February 2006 reached 822,810 by the end of last month, an increase of 86,388 since April, according to new data from the UNHCR.

Inside Iraq, some 85 percent of the displaced are in the central and southern regions. Most of those displaced are from Baghdad and surrounding districts, including 15,000 Palestinians who have nowhere to go "It's going on unabated," UNHCR spokeswoman Astrid Van Genderen Stort told AFP.

The new figures brought the total number of displaced people inside the country past the two million mark, to 2.03 million. About 1.02 million people were known to be displaced inside Iraq before Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

"Individual governorates inside Iraq are becoming overwhelmed by the needs of the displaced. At least 10 out of the 18 governates have closed their borders or are restricting access to new arrivals," UNHCR spokesperson, Jennifer Pagonis, told reporters in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the number of Iraqi refugees in nearby countries also increased to some 2.4 million. A total of 1.4 million Iraqis have now sought refuge in Syria, along with 750,000 in Jordan, 80,000 in Egypt and some 200,000 in the Gulf region. "UNHCR is rapidly expanding its operations and presence in the region, but the magnitude of the crisis is staggering," Pagonis warned.

"UNHCR is receiving disturbing reports of regional authorities refusing to register new arrivals, including single women, and denying access to government services. Many displaced have been evicted from public buildings," she added.

Combined with the general lack of resources, this has led to a growing number of impoverished shanty towns. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and the World Food Program indicate that at least 47 percent of the displaced have no access to official food distribution channels.

Analysis of detailed statistics show that in Syria alone, about 47,000 of the 88,447 refugees registered since the beginning of this year are in need of special assistance. Of them, about a quarter of them require legal or protection assistance, including many victims of torture.

Pagonis noted that recognition rates of Iraqis in various countries outside the region, particularly in Europe, remained low. "UNHCR repeats its call for all borders to remain open to those in need of protection," she said.

UNHCR sounded the alarm about the "rapidly deteriorating situation" in Iraq last November, warning that the intensified sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities sparked by the Samarra bombing earlier in 2006 had accelerated the exodus. The agency warned in January that it would need 60 million dollars to help Iraqi refugees and displaced people this year, more than double what was spent in 2006.

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