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UNHCR opens new Iraq camp amid Mosul displacement

An Iraqi family displaced by fighting in the village of Shora walks towards an Iraqi army checkpoint near Qayyarah. © UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

An Iraqi family displaced by fighting in the village of Shora walks towards an Iraqi army checkpoint near Qayyarah. © UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

Hasansham camp opens following largest displacement since start of Mosul offensive, as 8,000 men, women and children flee frontlines in past 24 hours.

HASANSHAM, Iraq – UNHCR opened a new camp in Hasansham in northern Iraq on Friday to help accommodate the largest displacement of people from Mosul since the start of the offensive to retake Iraq’s second city began last month.

The UN Refugee Agency opened the camp following the arrival of an estimated 8,000 Iraqis who fled the fighting in the past 24 hours.

Huge columns of cars, trucks and farm vehicles carrying men, women and children escaping the frontlines began arriving overnight and continued throughout the day.

An estimated 5,000 people have already been received at the nearby government-run Khazer camp. The first families began arriving at UNHCR’s newly built Hasansham camp at noon and soon reached an estimated 3,000 people.

“The past 24 hours has seen the biggest displacement so far since the Mosul offensive began.”

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Previously, the number of Iraqis displaced since the start of the military offensive on October 17 had reached more than 22,000, with the latest arrivals pushing the total to around 30,000. The UN has estimated that more than one million people could ultimately be displaced from their homes.

Most of the new arrivals came from Gogjali and other suburbs on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, which saw heavy clashes three days ago and are now under the control of the Iraqi Security Forces. The first arrivals at the camp spoke of their relief at having escaped the fighting, and the more than two years of harsh militant rule that preceded it. Sultan Ghassem, a 47-year-old metalworker from Gogjali, left his home three days ago and spent two nights camped near the frontlines before driving to the camp on Friday.

“We left home to escape the mortars falling all around us. When we left Mosul and came here, it felt like passing from the darkness into the light,” he told UNHCR staff.

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Displaced Iraqi’s from Mosul arrive at the UNHCR run Hasansham camp, which opened November 4 2016. © UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

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Displaced Iraqis, mainly from Gogjali on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, arrive at the UNHCR-run Hasansham camp, which opened today in light of the huge number of arrivals in the past 24 hours. © UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

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Iraqis displaced from Mosul arrive in cars and trucks at the UNHCR-run Hasansham camp, which opened on November 4, 2016. © UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

“For the last two years we haven’t had even the basics of life, only oppression. There was no money, no work. We sold everything we owned just to eat. The only reason nothing happened to me is because I stayed in my home all the time,” he added.

On arrival at the camp, families were registered at a reception area before being transferred to tents, where they will receive a hot meal, blankets, mattresses and other essential items.

Hasansham camp will ultimately have capacity to shelter 1,800 families, or the equivalent of 11,000 people. With 450 tents already in place and teams erecting more throughout the day, UNHCR’s Senior Field Coordinator Frederic Cussigh said all of the new arrivals would be given a shelter the same day as they arrived.

“As part of the Mosul contingency plan and in agreement with the authorities, we have opened this new camp to cope with the new influx. The past 24 hours has seen the biggest displacement so far since the Mosul offensive began, and we have information that the influx is massive and ongoing,” he said.

“When we left Mosul and came here, it felt like passing from the darkness into the light.”

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Hasansham is one of 11 camps that UNHCR has planned in order to respond to an anticipated large-scale displacement from Mosul, which when completed could house up to 120,000 people. Five camps are now ready to receive people displaced from Mosul.

Right now, UNHCR has 27,000 tents ready in Iraq that can shelter 162,000 people. This figure will rise to 40,000 tents (able to shelter 240,000 people) by the end of November, and 50,000 tents (for 300,000 people) by mid-December. UNHCR also plans to supply 50,000 Emergency Shelter Kits to provide additional shelter.

UNHCR’s Mosul emergency response remains less than half funded with US$95 million out of total of the $196.2 million requested. Of this, US$60 million is specifically required to provide urgent winter assistance to families who may be displaced from Mosul in the coming days.

By: Charlie Dunmore   |  4 November 2016