Number of people fleeing inside Iraq could rise, UN warns

( Irna ) - Monitoring developments on the Iraq-Turkey border, the United Nations refugee agency on Wednesday warned that the number of Iraqis displaced by conflict could rise beyond the already staggering 4.7 million who have fled either within the country or across borders.

According to a press release issued by the UN Information Center (UNIC) here on Thursday, Ron Redmond, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the agency "is worried about ongoing instability that could lead to further displacement."

Staffers of the agency "are closely watching developments at the Iraq-Turkey border," he said, pointing out that northern Iraq - the least insecure part of the country - is home to over 800,000 internally displaced Iraqis.

"We fear that displacement inside central and southern Iraq will increase as safe havens outside Iraq and in the north become increasingly inaccessible," Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva, pointing out that at least 11 of 18 governorates inside Iraq have some form of restrictions on internal movement.

Meanwhile, Iraqi refugees continue to arrive in Syria in much smaller numbers than before now that new visa regulations are in place which can require applicants to travel to dangerous areas to process the paperwork. "One told of the insecurity they faced reaching the embassy in Baghdad's al-Mansour district and said applicants had to wait a long time before being helped due to limited staff," Redmond said.

More than 2.3 million Iraqis are displaced inside the country, while more than 2.4 million Iraqis have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly to Syria and Jordan.

In Syria, the agency is cleaning up its registration centre in Douma, 15 where a huge fire on Friday destroyed over $1 million of relief items. "We hope to resume registration there later this week," the spokesman said.

He also announced that over 6,700 refugee families in Syria will benefit from a financial assistance program that UNHCR will launch later this year in cooperation with a private bank in the country.

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