Increasing summer temperatures and fire incidents put lives in danger at the Kurdistan Region camps

17-08-2022 01:04
Traces of a fire at the Sharia Camp, June 4, 2021. Photo; Ammar Aziz/Peregraf.

Peregraf- Duhok

Blazing hot summers of the Kurdistan Region has become a living hell for camp residents. Increasing fire incidents in high summer temperatures and "poor management" of the camps has added to the despair of the refugees and IDPs living in the camps.

"The tents are very old, and there are wires over our tents, so it's not surprising to me that there are fires every day," said Khidir Khudeda, an IDP from Shingal (Sinjar).

Khudeda, who has been living in Duhok province’s Bajid Kandal camp for eight years, said he had suffered great loses in a recent fire. "Our tents and goods were burned and my nephew was severely injured," he said.

"Officials use our cases to make themselves rich, they promise us things when they visit our camp, but they don't work, and we've been in the same situation for eight years," he noted.

A fire broke out on June 30 in Bajed Kandal camp which houses 8,000 IDPs, resulting in ten injuries and burning of over 30 tents.

"The poor management of the camps in every aspect by both the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi government is the reason for the recurrence of those incidents" Khudeda said.

At least three people have died in multiple fire incidents in the camps from January to June, in which more than 100 tents burned down, civil defense told Peregraf.

One NGO worker in the camps, who preferred to stay anonymous, told Peregraf that some of the fire incidents were "intentional."

"It has been proven by evidence that owners and refugees were involved in some of the fires. They set fire to their tents and then it gets out of control," said the source, adding that one of the reasons is that so they "can build houses" and others are "suspected of having political motives and hands in some incidents," without naming any parties.

The biggest fire broke out last year, 300 tents completely burned down, 100 more were damaged, and more than 180 families suffered losses.

Lieutenant Colonel Bewar Abdulaziz, the spokesman for the Duhok’s Civil Defense, told Peregraf that there have been 13 fire incidents in the first six months of 2022, which saw the death of three people and the injury of nine.

The refugees have criticized the civil defense teams for not responding to the incidents when necessary. Abdulhaziz rejected those comments and noted that they are cooperating with the camp administrations and are on standby 24/7.

However, he admitted that there is a "lack of planning" in organizing the tents and building the camps, and that most of the fires were caused by short circuit blowing up, according to civil defense investigators.

Public and private electricity wires have been set up through tents, increasing risks of fires especially in the summer when temperatures are higher than 40 degrees Celsius.

There are 36 refugee and IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region’s provinces, hosting more than 920,000 refugees, and according to official government statistics, it costs about two million US dollars per day.

Karwan Zaki, head of the Regional Government's Duhok Migration and Refugee Directorate, told Peregraf that more than 411,000 displaced people live in the 16 camps of Duhok province.

More than six million people were displaced between June 2014 to November 2017 when Islamic State militants took parts of Iraq, according the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and more than a million are yet to return to their homes.

Iraq closed almost all of its camps and its people have been returned, but the Kurdistan Region has refused to close down its camps and its residents, especially Yazidis, don’t want to return to their homes due to lack of reconstruction and security concerns.