Back From the Field: Turkey, Jordan & Iraq

WHEN: September 30-October 18
WHERE: Turkey (Ankara, Gaziantep, and Kilis Provinces); Jordan (Amman and Mafraq Governorates); Iraq (Erbil and Dohuk Provinces)
RI TEAM: Daryl Grisgraber, Senior Advocate; Marcy Hersh, Senior Advocate

Displacement caused by Syria’s civil war continues, with roughly 275,000 Syrians now living as registered refugees in neighboring countries, and tens of thousands more unregistered but in need of assistance. Estimates suggest up to 1.5 million people are now displaced inside Syria’s borders.

As the conflict has escalated, access to affected populations inside the country has remained severely restricted. Services to refugees in all neighboring countries have been halted periodically when fighting becomes too intense on the Syrian side, or when cross-border incidents occur. Refugees are currently waiting on the Syrian side of the border to enter both Turkey and Iraq, and there is a large registration backlog in Jordan’s main camp.

With progress toward a political solution now stalled, it appears that Syrians will continue to flee their homes in significant numbers for the foreseeable future. Some will go to the various camps that have been established along the borders; others will simply move into local communities and do their best to get by.

During their mission, RI’s team met with refugees in both camps and local communities in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. Their site visits and interviews with Syrian families, aid groups, NGOs, and local officials revealed the following areas of concern:

  • Achieving greater humanitarian access inside Syria remains essential. Aid agencies, government, and Syrians themselves agree that the situation inside the country’s borders is even more dire than in the countries hosting refugees.
  • Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq are all doing their best to provide for Syrian refugees within their borders, but they cannot continue to host growing numbers of Syrians without significant assistance from the international community.
  • In all three countries, services for Syrian refugees living in local communities are either non-existent or inadequate. Even where such services exist, many refugees may soon have to relocate to camps once their rent money has run out.
  • Winter is fast approaching, and few preparations have begun in either the camps or the local communities. Refugees in all three countries lack blankets, warm clothing, fuel and heaters, and structural improvements that would make winter tolerable. In some places, medical care for the health problems that inevitably come with winter weather will not be available.
  • Women and girls within Syria face severe threats to their security. Indeed, many refugees cite the alarmingly high incidence of rape and other forms of sexual violence as one of their reasons for fleeing. Services for Syrian refugees who are survivors of gender-based violence are nonexistent or inadequate, both within and outside the refugee camps.
  • Refugee camps for Syrians in all three countries have been designed without adherence to international humanitarian standards regarding women’s protection and preventing gender-based violence.