Among the most tragic victims are the innocent civilians who have been driven from or had to flee their homes, often with little more than the clothes on their backs. The Western press has taken note of their plight, but most of the focus to this point has been on refugees who have crossed the border into Turkey or Lebanon. There is another flow, however. It consists of Syrians who have fled into Iraq—primarily into Iraqi Kurdistan.
The largest Kurdistan Region refugee camp is Dumiz, near the border with Syria. When that facility was first established, KRG authorities allocated 110 acres. They assumed that even though there were approximately two million Kurds living in Syria, only about 1,500 Syrian Kurds were expected to seek shelter in Iraq.
That estimate proved to be far too optimistic. By early December 2011 there were at least 38,000 people in Dumiz, and more than 500 new refugees enter the now 270 acre camp each day. In Iraqi Kurdistan as a whole, the total of displaced persons is estimated to be more than 60,000. Not all of them are Kurds, but a sizable majority are, and how to handle the refugee issue has become yet another source of tension between the regional government in Erbil and Iraq’s national government in Baghdad.