Refugees from Syria in Iraq
97% of all refugees from Syria in Iraq out of a total of just under 250,000 can be found in the KRI region. Over 90% of Syrian refugees in KRI are Syrian Kurds.
Key facts about the refugee population:
- A substantial number entered the country through informal (irregular) borders and the majority of refugees come from North Eastern Syrian cities, such as Alhassaka and Qamishli
- The predominantly Kurdish identity of the refugees coming from Syria brings with it a sense of solidarity between the refugees and the host communities.
- UNRWA is not operational in the country,
- The majority of stateless Kurds who are in displacement will be found in this region
- An estimated quarter of households from Syria are headed by women.
- It is important to remember that Iraq is also hosting a significant number of IDPs, an estimated 3.3 million.
Where are they:
Just under 100,000 reside in refugee camps, the others are in urban settings, mainly in the three main cities of Duhok, Erbil and Sulimaniya.
A ‘refugee’ in the KRI legal context:
KRI is not a party to the Refugee Convention. It does not officially recognise ‘refugees’ - there is currently no category in national law for refugees who are fleeing conflict or persecution and seeking safety in KRI.
The government closed the border with Syria from May to mid-August 2013 – after approximately 50,000 mostly Kurdish Syrians walked into the KRI in under two weeks, and it has been tightened again in mid September of that year and has remained so. Refugees from Syria can obtain permission to return to Syria temporarily only under certain criteria (for example health needs).
For Iraqi citizens, the civil registration procedure is complex as there is a separate civil record for each governorate for the population. This also affects Iraqi refugees who had been residing in Syria and have now returned to Iraq. For foreigners, including refugees, the situation is much simpler as they follow the civil registration code that is applicable to all foreigners, in whichever governorate they reside.
Nationality law in Iraq:
The Iraqi nationality law was reformed in 2006 and since then has allowed mothers to transfer their nationality automatically to their children on the same par as Iraqi fathers. However, this only applies when the child is born inside the country, children born to Iraqi mothers outside the country do not obtain Iraqi nationality automatically. Additionally, naturalisation is a highly sensitive and politicised issue and remains at the discretion of the Iraqi State.
Statelessness in Iraq:
Iraq has not ratified either of the Statelessness Conventions and does not have a legal framework to address this issue. Iraq already has a large in situ stateless population, historically this consisted mainly of the stateless Failli Kurds. However the government has taken several steps to resolve this, for example in 2010, no country in the world achieved a larger reduction in statelessness than Iraq.