Thousands of Syrian refugees flee to Iraqi Kurdistan
A Syrian-Kurdish woman walks at the Quru Gusik refugee camp, 20 kilometres east of the of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on August 17, 2013. (AFP)
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Thousands of Syrian refugees are seeking refuge from the conflict in their own country in neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan, the UN refugee agency announced Sunday.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told the BBC that up to 10,000 crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan at the Peshkhabour crossing on Saturday, adding to an earlier influx of 7,000 on Thursday. The UN says the reasons behind the sudden influx are not fully clear.
The UN agencies, the Kurdish regional government and NGOs are struggling to cope, BBC correspondents reported Sunday.
UNHCR says the recent influx of Syrian refugees is one of the single biggest waves of displaced Syrians that it has had to deal with since the outbreak of sectarian violence in Syria in 2011.
Although safer than their war-torn homeland, there has been a recent reported rise in clashes between Syrian Kurds and anti-government Islamic militants, according to the BBC.
The global NGO Save the Children has launched an emergency response to the arrival of the Syrians, providing basic supplies to the thousands that are waiting to be registered by UNHCR.
"This is an unprecedented influx of refugees, and the main concern is that so many of them are stuck out in the open at the border or in emergency reception areas with limited, if any, access to basic services," said Alan Paul, Save the Children's emergency team leader told the BBC.
"The refugee response in Iraq is already thinly stretched, and close to half of the refugees are children who have experienced things no child should."