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UN opens second camp in Iraq to cope with Syrian Kurd influx

Turkish offensive in Syria prompts exodus of tens of thousands in latest humanitarian crisis of Syria's eight-year civil war
Syrians who fled Turkish military operation in northeastern region of their country sit outside tent shelters at Bardarach camp in Iraq (AFP)

The United Nations on Saturday opened a new section of a camp for the displaced in Iraqi Kurdistan to host refugees fleeing Turkish troops in northeast Syria.

"Around 11,000 refugees are now living in Bardarach, which is at capacity," Rashid Hussein Rashid, spokesman for the UN's refugee agency in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, told AFP. "So we opened a new section of the Gawilan camp to host 310 refugees who arrived today from Syria."

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Gawilan camp has been housing 1,850 families who fled to Iraq when conflict first erupted in neighbouring Syria in 2011. The Kurdistan region hosts more than a million displaced people, including Syrians and Iraqis, according to the UN.

Ankara and its Syrian rebel allies launched an operation on 9 October against the Kurdish People's Protection Units, which Turkey sees as a "terrorist" group for its links to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party.

The offensive has killed dozens of civilians, mainly on the Kurdish side, and prompted an exodus of tens of thousands, in the latest humanitarian crisis of Syria's eight-year civil war.

Rashid said fewer than the normal number of refugees had crossed into Iraq on Saturday as Syrian government troops had moved into the area, blocking the refugees' passage.

Tom Peyre-Costa, spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Iraq, recently told MEE: “Kurdish authorities in Iraq expect to receive, on average, 1,000 refugees per week… But the humanitarian community expects much larger numbers if the escalation of violence does not stop immediately.”

The NRC has said the number of cross-border refugees may swell to as many as 50,000.