Support to Iraqi Refugees in Neighbouring Countries
In recent history Iraq has experienced unprecedented population movements due to war and sectarian violence. The European Union (EU) closely monitors the situation of Iraq's refugees in neighboring countries and of internally displaced people (IDPs), which put considerable strain on service provision and host communities, both inside and outside Iraq.
UNHCR estimates the number of IDPs in Iraq to be around 1.5 million (only displacements after 2006 are included in this figure), a number that seems to remain stable since 2008. The number of people willing to return to their place of origin (either IDPs or Refugees) is also gradually rising. From July 2008 to June 2010 a total of 421,270 returnees have been registered, out of which 144,410 were IDPs and the rest refugees from outside Iraq.
Most of Iraq's refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. Although exact numbers are difficult to determine, the current population of registered Iraqi refugees in Syria stands at over 200,000 with close to 50,000 in Jordan. The large influx of refugees in Syria and Jordan has also placed a considerable strain on the economy and infrastructure of the host countries. Moreover the situation of many of the refugees remains precarious, with several cases of homelessness, child labour, early marriage and survival sex workers.
The EU focuses its support for Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan on the provision of basic services. This support is mainly channeled through the existing public state systems, in an effort to strengthen existing structures in the host countries and to create synergies between the various interventions.
In Syria the Education sector was funded with a €10 million support package in order to help the Syrian public authorities to cope with the financial and physical strain caused in the education system by the large influx of Iraqi refugees. One of the challenges tackled by the support program is the increased salary cost of education staff in schools with a high concentration of Iraqi children.
Another programme (€4 million), implemented by UNICEF, contributes to the absorption capacity of the school system and to the maintenance of the quality of education for children in Syria. This project reaches about 30,000 students in both primary and secondary schools in six governorates throughout Syria which have faced a high inflow of Iraqi refugees.
On the Health sector, one programme (€9 million) centers on assisting the Syrian Government in providing Iraqi refugees with improved access to medical health care, through the reinforcement of the equipment available in hospitals and health centers.
Focusing specifically on the waste sector in Syria and, in particular, solid waste and medical waste management, the implementation of a €10 million programme is expected to get underway shortly. It will provide critical equipment and support to improve waste management services in response to the rapidly increasing demand in areas where there is a high concentration of Iraqi refugees.
In Jordan, a €26.68 million programme was launched in 2007 in support of the education sector. This programme seeks to consolidate the performance and quality of education services and develop an improved physical and learning environment, while ensuring the increased enrolment of Iraqi children.
Finally, also in Jordan, a €12 million programme to be implemented by the country's Water Authority is due to start shortly. The programme focuses on assisting Jordanian authorities in managing scarce water resources and reducing losses in the water distribution network in the area of Zarqa, where there is a large concentration of Iraqi refugees.
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