The Al Yarubiyah (Tıl Koçer) border gate, a crossing point along the Syrian-Iraqi border, was closed due to Russia’s veto in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) causing more than one million migrants in Northern and Eastern Syria to be deprived of humanitarian aid.
As a consequence of the ongoing war in Syria there has been a great wave of migration to the Autonomous Administration region, including civilians from Aleppo, Damascus, Deir ez-Zor, Idlib and other parts of Syria. Thousands of citizens from Afrin, Girê Spî and Serêkaniyê were forced to live in camps due to attacks by the Damascus government and Turkish-backed forces.
More than one million refugees
According to Hawarnews, Şêxmûs Ehmed, the president of the Organisation and Immigration Department, said the number of migrants across Northern and Eastern Syria is one million and twenty-five thousand, of which one hundred and twenty-five thousand are staying in camps. The remaining nine hundred thousand migrants stay in villages, cities and school buildings.
The Autonomous Administration opened its first migrant camp in 2014 to welcome the Sinjar Yazidis who were rescued from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) assaults. Afterwards, camps were opened for people from Raqqa, Tabqa, Dêrazor and Manbij, who were fleeing ISIS’ barbarism.
Camps were established for the people of Afrin, which was occupied by the Turkish state in 2018, and for the people of Girê Spî and Serêkaniyê in 2019.
Turkey’s attacks and Russia’s veto
After the Turkish state’s attacks on Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî on 9 October 2019, many organisations operating in Northern and Eastern Syria left the region and thousands of civilians were forced to migrate. According to data from the Organisation and Immigration Department, 34 regional and international aid organizations were operating in Northern and Eastern Syria before the attacks.
Şêxmûs Ehmed said the UN-affiliated organisations provided aid before the Turkish attacks on Afrin in 2018, and pointed out that the rate of aid decreased with the attacks and that the UN organisations had left the region.
Due to Russia’s veto at the UN Security Council session in January, the delivery of humanitarian aid crossing from the Al Yarubiyah (Tıl Koçer) border gate was stopped. Arguing that the needs of migrants have increased with the coronavirus pandemic, Ehmed criticised the World Health Organization (WHO), which does not provide support for health supplies and medicine.
Embargo in Sehba Canton (Herêma Şehba)
Referring to the embargo imposed on Afrin migrants in Sehba (Herêma Şehba) by the Damascus government, Şêxmûs Ehmed said, “The Sehba Canton is under siege by both the Turkish state’s armed groups and the Damascus government. Afrin migrants are experiencing great difficulties due to the embargo imposed on the canton”.
Illustrating that the aid sent to Sehba (Herêma Şehba) by the Autonomous Administration was confiscated by the Damascus government, Ehmed said the Damascus government also offered the aid sent by the UN to markets in Aleppo.
Ehmed pointed out that the needs of migrants increased with the arrival of the winter season and said, ”This year the Til Koçer border was closed, making it difficult to meet these needs. The existing opportunities of the Autonomous Administration are insufficient to meet all the needs of migrants”.
Ehmed called on the international community, especially the UN, International Coalition and the European Union, to take action to open the border and provide aid to migrants. Ehmed also asked the Iraqi government to allow the return of Iraqi migrants in Hol Camp.