Refugee camps in northern Iraq

22.06.2016 – Hundreds of thousands of refugees in northern Iraq are seeking sanctuary from war and terror. The priority is not just their short-term safety but also their long-term prospects.

Shariya is just one of eleven refugee camps in the northern Iraqi province of Dohuk where the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is working. It is supporting the provincial government in alleviating the plight of those fleeing the terrorist group ‘Islamic State’. Working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ has been supporting the construction of 14 community centres, 10 schools, seven health centres and a hospital in Dohuk. It has helped to lay concrete baseplates for tents and build roads and water supply systems. In collaboration with UNICEF and the German aid organisation Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V., GIZ is also running training courses to prepare refugee camp administrators for their role and train them in conflict resolution.

Around 20,000 people live in the Shariya refugee camp. In the twelve months to summer 2015, approximately 550,000 refugees arrived in Dohuk province, most of them from Syria and Iraq. To provide refugees in the camps with some form of activity and something to take their mind off their plight, UNICEF works on behalf of GIZ to organise football tournaments and readings. Hundreds of children take part in drama groups, and each camp has its own newspaper, produced by young people. Three mobile cinemas tour the camps at regular intervals.

The camps meet families’ basic needs – a roof over their heads, water, food, clothing and even a little entertainment. Some of the refugees also attend literacy classes, sewing courses or information events, while others are helping to develop the camp infrastructure. There is also a lawyer on hand for those using the community centres. She is able to help with obtaining new passports and marriage or birth certificates – important documents that refugees often leave behind in their hurry to get away.

But our work is about more than just the here and now. To give these individuals prospects for the future, GIZ is working on behalf of BMZ in northern Iraq to provide short courses enabling them to acquire skills: camp residents are learning how to do bricklaying and carpentry, repair mobile phones, lay electrical cables and water pipes, weave carpets, and make clothes. The aim is to equip them eventually to set up their own small businesses and to support their families.

Nazrin Iljaz lives in the Shariya refugee camp with her seven children. Read more about her moving story in Gabriele Rzepka’s report ‘A new life’ in the GIZ Magazine akzente.