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9,000 Iraqi Christians Displaced From Mosul

UN voices concern at displacement of over 9,000 Iraqi Christians from Mosul

17 October 2008 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed its concern at reports that some 9,360 Christians have been displaced from the Iraqi city of Mosul in the past week owing to threats, intimidation and attacks.

“We have received information from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) in Mosul that approximately 1,560 families (some 9,360 people) have been displaced so far, although UNHCR cannot confirm this number,” the agency’s spokesperson, Ron Redmond, told reporters in Geneva.

“The displaced population would represent about half of the Christians in the Mosul area,” he added.

Over the past few days, UNHCR has sent at least 10 field assessment missions to areas surrounding Mosul, including Telesquf, Batnaya, Bartilla, Baashiqa, Akre and Shekhan. It has also had teams in areas of Dahuk and Erbil, where Christians have sought refuge.

Mr. Redmond said that initial reports suggest that most Christian Iraqis decided to leave Mosul following direct as well as indirect threats and intimidation.

“One of those interviewed witnessed the killing of a Christian Iraqi on the street, while several of the displaced told us they had received printed threats at the university campus, in their homes and through text messages on their mobile phones.

“Several others told our teams that they left when they heard news of 11 reported killings of Christians in Mosul. Others were warned by family members, friends and neighbours of potential threats and decided to leave before it was too late,” he reported.

Most of those that fled are staying with extended family members, friends within the host community or in collective community buildings, including church facilities.

“For now, most of the displaced we spoke to do not envisage return to their homes as an immediate option, as they fear for their lives. A few told us that they will only return if and when their safety and security can be assured by the local authorities,” said Mr. Redmond.

UNHCR has highlighted an urgent need for food, clothes, non-food items such as blankets, mattresses, and stoves, as well as health facilities, hygiene kits, clean water and access to school.

The agency, together with its partner, International Medical Corps (IMC), have distributed non-food items to a total of 802 families – about 4,800 people – over the past week. It expects to reach over 1,500 families by early next week.

ENDS

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