The United Nations has warned that Iraq’s neighbours may be overwhelmed by the mass exodus of refugees fleeing unrest in the country.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said: We are not yet witnessing a massive refugee outflow and I think it will depend on whether this crisis can be addressed effectively in the near future or whether it will be a protracted conflict.”
He expressed his concern that Jordan, in particular, would be unable to cope. “Jordan is now having the enormous pressure of the Syrian refugees, so it’s difficult to see how the region can cope with another big refugee outflow.
“Obviously, if that would occur, I would hope that Iraqis could be well received everywhere. But as I said, for the moment the most important thing is to avoid it.”
Guterres said that the longer the conflict lasts the more inevitable it is that there will be major displacements of refugees once again; highlighting refugees will be unable to seek refuge in Syria.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, at least 300,000 Iraqis have fled the fighting in the northern city of Mosul and have sought shelter in the relatively calm, autonomous region of Kurdistan in the past week. Another 500,000 Iraqis are displaced within the country since sectarian fighting flared in the western Iraqi province of Anbar in January.