Security

Iraq prepares for mass exodus from Mosul

By Khalid al-Taie

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An Iraqi woman receives aid at a centre for internally displaced persons in Talul al-Baj in Baiji. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement]

As Iraqi forces move towards Mosul, the government is putting in place a contingency plan to contain potential mass displacement from the city ahead of the battle to retake it from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

The move is precautionary "given facts of the current war on terrorism", Iraqi officials told Diyaruna, noting that the "final decisive stage" in the battle to drive ISIL from the last areas it controls in northern Iraq is approaching.

"Military operations are under way to liberate al-Sharqat city in Salaheddine province," said Sattar Nowruz, director general of the Ministry of Migration and Displacement's department of immigration affairs.

"The rapid progress by Iraqi forces in southern Mosul required us to act and take all possible precautions and be well prepared for the waves of mass displacement," he told Diyaruna.

"There are intensive preparations for the construction of large camps to house the displaced that are safe and as far away as possible from the theatre of military operations," he said, adding that these may be in the Ninawa plain.

On July 20th, the National Higher Committee for the Relief to the Displaced allocated three billion dinars ($200,000) for the establishment of these camps.

But more money is needed in order to provide these camps with services such as water, electricity, health and education, Nowruz said.

To this end, the ministry will "intensify its communications with all international humanitarian organisations and institutions to help contain any obstacles and face various challenges", he said.

Meanwhile, "the ministry has mobilised all its efforts to secure the requirements and necessities for displaced families including in-kind and food items like blankets, furnishings and cooking supplies", he said.

Displacement from al-Sharqat

"The ministry has established a sheltering centre in Talul al-Baj area, northern Salaheddine province, for receiving and housing displaced families from al-Sharqat and it currently has about 6,000 families," Nowruz said.

"We are co-ordinating our work with the local government of Salaheddine province and humanitarian organisations to serve those families that have suffered during their journey of displacement from serious difficulties," he said.

"They were forced to flee on foot for long distances in the heat," he said. "We are now working to alleviate their suffering."

Urgent shipments of food and humanitarian aid have arrived for the families that fled al-Sharqat, as well as those from the areas south of Mosul, said Fazaa al-Shammari, director of the department of immigration branch in Salaheddine.

"At least 300 portions of food and drinking water in addition to fans, coolers and relief supplies are distributed every day to families in the sheltering centre of Talul al-Baj," he said.

"We also have opened a large kitchen in Hajaj area to provide these families with hot and cold meals in addition to water every day, and that is in co-operation with humanitarian organisations like the Red Crescent," he said.

Additionally, he said, 1,420 tents have arrived and 2,800 are on their way to Salaheddine out of 10,000 tents provided by the Ministry of Migration to accommodate the mass displacement from al-Sharqat.

"Every day we record the displacement of hundreds of families from that city that has an estimated population of about 200,000," al-Shammari said.

The local administration of al-Sharqat has formed a sub-committee to co-ordinate with all security, government and humanitarian entities in order to secure shelter and essential needs to all families fleeing the city, he added.

Families flee areas south of Mosul

"There are at least 24,000 displaced people who left their homes in the villages south of Mosul with the progress of military forces around the town of al-Qayyarah to restore it from the grip of terrorists," Ninawa provincial council member Abdel Rahman al-Wakka told Diyaruna.

"Large numbers of those displaced were housed in (Deebka) camp in Makhmour town and they need more humanitarian support from the government and international organisations to improve their living conditions," he said.

All government agencies must harness their energies in the coming period in order to avoid any humanitarian crises, especially with the battles around al-Qayyarah and Hamam al-Alil, he added.

"We expect the displacement of at least 800,000 people from Mosul and its outskirts," he said. "This potential number of displaced people requires us to take all preventive measures of relief."

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