Syria’s refugees face numerous landmine dangers as they flee into northern Iraq

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Syria refugees in Iraq
Syrian refugees, many who have Kurdistan heritage, trek across land into the northern Iraq region. Doing so is causing a large amount of people to be in ‘harm’s way’ due to landmines and unexploded ordnance objects left in the ground decades ago over years of conflict in the Kurdistan border region. Today Mines Advisory Group, and others, are helping to remove these dangerous mine devices. Image: Gusitalia

(WNN) Denver, Colorado, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: Fleeing the Syrian conflict isn’t getting any easier. In the past month approximately 59,000 Syrians have fled to northern Iraq, says Mines Advisory Group (MAG) in  a new release outlining current conditions.

The trek from Syria to the Kurdistan region in Iraq is not a safe one. It is littered profusely with landmines and unexploded ordnance objects. The dangerous trail isn’t dangerous though because of Syria. These landmines are leftovers from decades of war and conflict in Iraq, especially in the region of Kurdistan.

Coming to the aid of Syrian refugees who are desperate to leave the current situation in their homeland, MAG is now working to clear the paths those who have become displaced take to reach makeshift camps inside Iraq. Clearing landmines takes more than just courage. It takes precision and know-how, and a dedicated team.

According to MAG there are now close to 200,000 Syrian refugees already living inside Iraq who are making temporary homes in numerous refugee camps. It is a volatile and difficult situation where food aid and other needs are critical to the survival of those who have fled.

The Domiz Camp in Kurdistan’s Dohuk Governorate is now overflowing with people.

“So far, MAG has cleared land equivalent to almost 300 Wembley-sized football pitches to help provide shelter, water and basic amenities to Syrian refugees,” outlines MAG. “By clearing more land so that camps can be built and expanded, MAG’s work is helping to ease the immense pressure on overcrowded facilities,” they continue.

The greatest risk with a landmine or an unexploded ordinance object is not knowing where it is. Knowing the risks is critical to safely, says Mag who is also involved in a detailed training program for children and adults on the dangers of hidden explosive devices.

“Women and children are venturing out to collect fruit and wild flowers to supplement their meagre rations. This part of Iraq is heavily contaminated by bombs and munitions that could easily go ‘bang’ if uncovered,” says Nick Roseveare Chief Executive for Mines Advisory Group who saw first-hand the deplorable conditions at Domiz Camp. “Knowing about the risks is crucial to avoid more unnecessary tragedy,” he added.

Children are particularly vulnerable to landmines, highlighted Roseveare as he explained that a child natural inquisitiveness can really get them in trouble. Children are also smaller and much more apt to receive severe injury from a mine than adults, outlined Roseveare.

As part of on-the-ground education in the Camps a public service announcement film has been produced to outline the dangers of landmines and other devices by MAG, along with UNICEF, United Nations Mine Action Service and other agencies, that can be played in the Camps. The hope is that this information through visual film will have impact to save lives.

Currently conditions of overcrowding in the Camps is causing outbreaks of contagious measles as well.

“People are living in near destitution in the rain and mud, with diseases like measles rampant. Conditions are difficult to say the least. More space is urgently needed,” continued Roseveare.

Without partners in the region the work for MAG would be drastically reduced and some extra lives may have been lost they conveyed.

“Thanks to all the public, institutional and government donors to MAG’s operations in Iraq, including: Australian Aid; German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Hind Aladwani; Isle of Man Overseas Aid Committee; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; NVESD HD R & D Program; SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency); US Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. Without this support, MAG’s lifesaving work in the country could not be carried out,” said MAG.


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