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23rd Sep 2018

EU aid not reaching Yazidi in northern Iraq, says NGO

  • The Islamic State in Iraq have lost territory (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

The EU has provided some €350m in humanitarian funding aid for Iraq between 2015 and 2017.

But Nadia's Initiative, an NGO named after an enslaved Yezhidi girl who managed to escape the Islamic State, says little if anything ends up helping the discriminated community in Sinjar, an ancient city in northern Iraq.

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Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown, who has been working with the community since 2015, told this website Iraqi politicians are now refusing to disperse any of the needed aid funds to the area in and around Sinjar.

"There is no aid, there is no reconstruction, there are landmines and mass graves and political disputes and reconstruction can't begin because Sinjar hasn't been de-mined," she said, last month in an interview.

Brown, who had also helped mount a case of genocide against the Islamic State at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, says Iraqi government forces to drive out the militants have made it somewhat safer for the Yazidis to return home.

"Now we need the Iraqi government to hire the Yazidis and make them part of the security. I think that is a very concrete action that I think the Iraqi government and international community can support," she said.

The EU maintains humanitarian funding is going to Ninewa governorate, where Sinjar town is located, to assist vulnerable people, including Yazidis. The funding apparently goes towards health care, education in emergencies, as well as assistance in response to flooding in Sinjar.

But Brown says the money is not reaching the people because local political authorities "don't really care about the Yazidi population".

"There has been mistakes on the local level but there is a larger collective failure. Everyone should be doing more," she added.

Caritas, an international aid organisation, is now promoting Nadia's Initiative to help bring some solutions, says most of the EU funding is going to Mosul, Telfar, and Hawija in west Anbar.

"It is another sign how the system is failing when the community of victims is responsible of ensuring that justice prevails," said Shannon Pfohman, a policy and advocacy director for Caritas Europa.

War crimes and delays

Survivors who fled to Turkey, after being hunted by radicalised militants, are also having to wait until 2022 for appointments with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

"Due to the increase in the number asylum-seekers especially in the last few years, there are waiting periods throughout the process," said the UNHCR, in a statement on Tuesday (3 July), when asked to explain the 2022 date.

It noted people also have to go through Turkish authorities for processing and that appointment dates with the UNHCR are automatically generated by a scheduling software.

Such delays are part of a broader frustration to help the community, targeted by the Islamic State in a deliberate campaign to exterminate them.

The militants had in August 2014 laid siege to the city, displacing up to 300,000 people, and kidnapped thousands of women and children, who then suffered horrific abuse.

The United Nations Human Rights Office had in a report said Isis may have perpetrated a genocide against the Yezhidi, noting crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Stories of women and children being held captive, tortured and enslaved, gripped international attention as the armed militia indiscriminately slaughtered thousands.

Statistics are difficult to obtain.

Yazda, an NGO based in Iraq, estimates only around a few thousand, out of the 90,000 who fled Iraq, ended up in Europe. It says many try to reach Europe but are turned back at the border with Bulgaria.

It also remains unclear how many obtained asylum given ethnicity is not registered during applications.

But last year, over 52,000 people from Iraq applied for international protection in Europe, less than half the number registered in 2016.

More than half of Iraqi applicants were counted in Germany and Greece. Around 60 percent obtained refugee status and around 35 percent a subsidiary protection status.

This article was updated on 6 July 2018 at 9:00 with an additional quote from Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown.

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