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Half a million Kurds and Iraqis migrated over past 5 years

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Half a million Kurds and Iraqis migrated over past 5 years

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:45 am

Half a million Kurds
and Iraqis migrated

Severe economic hardship drove Sherwan Anwar to migrate to Europe 11 years ago, despite his family trying to stop him multiple times. Days after arriving in Turkey, he called his mother to tell her he was heading to Europe and would not return. He has not been heard from since

“Sherwan used to work for a tile company. Three years before he left, he suffered problems with his kidneys. Doctors advised him not to work after they removed his kidney, which had stopped functioning. Therefore, he missed work and did not do anything for three years,” his mother Badia Hama Amin told Rudaw.

Badia says she begged her son to return, but he did not listen. He was 23 when he left.

“He traveled to Turkey by himself. Before setting off from there to Europe, he called me [in early January 2009] consoling me that he would not go by waterways. Because just a few days before, 21 Kurds had drowned,” Badia said.

“I repeatedly told him ‘I only have you in my life. Please come back and stay by my side’. But he did not agree,” she said. “It was the last time I heard from him.”

A few days later “on January 4, 2009 around midnight, Sherwan called his sister and her husband telling them he was setting off to Europe the very same day”.

“We called him back at 4am, but his mobile was switched off,” Badia sighed. “Eleven years on, there is no news about his fate.”

Badia says she dreams of the old days when her family lived together in one house.

“My husband passed away 21 years ago. My daughters are married and my son has gone missing for 11 years now,” she said. “I spend every day sobbing. Yet, I have not lost hope.”

Sherwan is one of hundreds of Kurds who went missing en route to Europe over the last decade.

Many from Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan took the land route to Turkey before paying smugglers thousands of dollars to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece in crowded, rickety boats. Many never reached the shore.

According to The Summit Foundation for Refugee and Displaced Affairs (Lutka), 564,273 people from the Kurdistan Region, the disputed territories, and other parts of Iraq, including men, women, children, and the elderly, have migrated abroad since the beginning 2015 to early 2020 alone.

Five to 10 percent of them were from the central and southern parts of Iraq, according to Ari Jalal, the head of Lutka.

Of this number, 233 are known to have died on the journey while a further 156 have gone missing. Earlier this month, 16 Kurds drowned when their boat capsized near the Greek island of Paxos.

Jalal says those who are missing should not be presumed dead.

“Some of those who go missing, we can find them. There have been cases where we have discovered missing immigrants in prisons. We have been able to make them reunite with their families. In some cases we have found 20 to 25 immigrants at once, helping to reunite them with their families,” he said.

Most are buried in the country where they died. “A handful of the bodies are repatriated to the Kurdistan Region,” Jalal said.

Those who have died on the journey “include women, men, teens, and children. Many of them come from the regions that have been gripped by turmoil and conflict. They are mostly from Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Diyala, and Mosul,” he said

As Sherwan’s case shows, Kurdish migration to Europe and elsewhere are not a phenomenon confined to recent conflicts.

After the 1991 Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, thousands of individuals and families emigrated to Europe, Canada, and the United States to escape persecution and economic misery. People sought a safer, more prosperous life for their families. But not everybody reached their intended destination.

According to the latest data from the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), anywhere between 250,000 and one million Iraqis are classified as missing.

In 2015, and the peak of the refugee crisis, some 1,032,408 people migrated to Europe from warzones across the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, according to the UN refugee agency.

The following year, some 5,096 people were killed or went missing while making the journey.
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Half a million Kurds and Iraqis migrated over past 5 years



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