Governor warns of escalating refugee crisis in Kirkuk

2017/04/22 | 19:20

(Iraq News)- KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region-- In a strongly-worded statement Saturday, Kirkuk Governor Najmadin Karim warmed Iraqi government of what he described as deterioration of refugee crisis in Kirkuk where around half a million displaced Iraqis still reside amid shortage of electricity, running water and worsening of public services. The governor slammed Baghdad for lack of support for Kirkuk province which he said had “suffered greatly” due to the influx of refugees from war zones across northern Iraq. Although patrolled by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Kirkuk is still part of the Iraqi government’s administration and is entitled by the constitution to receive financial support from Baghdad derived from sale of oil and other national revenues. Governor Karim has in the past accused Baghdad of withholding parts of Kirkuk’s provincial budget following the escalation of tensions between Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi central government over oil deals. “Kirkuk is heavily burdened today primarily due to the influx of more than half a million refugees.

There’re places that were liberated 2,5 years ago with no ISIS forces remaining there, and yet the refugees have not returned (to their areas),” Karim said at a press conference in Kirkuk on Saturday. “The people of Kirkuk have suffered greatly.

They share basically every public service with the refugees including the electricity, water, schools, roads, medicines and hospitals.

I sincerely thank the people of Kirkuk for that but their patience should not be taken for granted,” the governor warned. With nearly a million population, Kirkuk province has hosted around 550,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs), according to the Iraqi Ministry of Migration. Most of Iraq’s 1,5 million IDPs have remained in Kirkuk and the Kurdistan Region despite Iraqi forces recapturing their areas from ISIS militants over the past years and while other IDPs in central Iraq have returned to their liberated areas in Anbar and Salahaddin provinces. Kurdish officials, who are currently campaigning to hold a referendum on Kurdistan Region’s independence from Iraq, have expressed concern over the influx of IDPs who they say could disturb the demographic makeup in the disputed territories like Kirkuk. Governor Karim called on Iraqi government to facilitate the return of the IDPs and warned of “sectarian” standoff.“They should step up the return of the refugees to their own areas and the sectarian issues should be dealt with,” he added. The city of Hawija and its surrounding townships remain the only areas under ISIS rule as Iraqi and Kurdish forces gear up to retake the city. “Nearly 30,000 families from Hawija are in Kirkuk and it’s our duty to help them till their city is liberated but the postponement of the operation to retake Hawija is not in the interest of the Iraqi people nor in Kirkuk’s,” the governor said. 

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