Aug 21 2012
By Mundher al-Shawfi
Azzaman, August 21, 2012
More than 2000 Iraqi refugee families have fled their villages and towns in the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus and they are now asking the U.N. refugee agency for help.
Most of them have flocked to the township of Jarmana, a low-income area of the Syrian capital, where one of the largest Iraqi refugee communities in Syria reside.
Jarmana officials say they have registered more than 2000 Iraqi families fleeing the suburbs due to fierce fighting between Syrian rebels and government troops.
They said many Syrian families had also fled but they have returned to their homes when Syrian troops flushed out the rebels.
The fleeing Iraqi families have been housed in school buildings in Jarmana but now with they are told they will have to leave before the school term starts in Syria in September.
Since their relocation, they say, they have been almost neglected by the U.N. refugee agency which used to look after hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria.
A refugee, who spoke on condition his identity is not revealed, urged the agency not to leave them to their own and work with the Iraqi authorities to “find some way to improve our living conditions.”
He said all the U.N. agency did was giving each family $150 and some blankets and asking them to leave the school building they had fled to in Jarmana.
He said he and other families were living in the town of Hujair close to Damascus. He said most of them were threatened by the rebels and were afraid to go back.
A woman refugee with three children said the Syrian Red Crescent, the Muslim affiliate of the Red Cross, had done its best to house them temporarily in a school building. “Now we are told to leave and find somewhere else to live, but we cannot afford it,” she said.
“I lived in an area where I paid about $100 a month for a small flat. When I fled I left the little I had behind and rents are higher in Damascus and I cannot go back to the same place,” she said.
Riyadh Shallal, a member of the municipal council in Jarmana, said initially they had to deal with more than 2,000 Iraqi refugee families. “We opened the school buildings for them and offered them through the Red Crescent some help,” he said.
However, Shallal said while he sympathized with the plight of Iraqi refugees, it was the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) which was under obligation to look after them.
“The U.N. has given each Iraqi family advanced payments for three months and a sum of money to cover for a limited period to time to rent a house,” he added.
But our correspondent said he found the refugees living in squalor conditions. Most of them had no belongings apart from some mattresses and blankets.
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