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Executive Summary for May 31st

We review the most recent refugee-related issues, including thousands of refugees fleeing fighting in Iraq, the latest numbers on migrants using the sea route from Libya to Italy and figures showing that more than 1 million Afghans have been displaced by war.

Published on May 31, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Fighting in Iraq Expected to Force Hundreds of Thousands of Refugees to Flee

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are expected to arrive in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in the coming days.

Earlier this week, the Iraqi army, with ground support from Shiite militias and air support from the U.S.-led coalition, began an operation against militants of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, west of the capital Baghdad. Fighting in Fallujah has already forced some 3,700 people to flee to Erbil, according to Reuters.

But officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are expecting the number to increase sharply once door-to-door combat begins in Fallujah, a ground operation Iraqi forces say is necessary to push militants completely out of the city. Internally displaced people (IDPs) already make up roughly 35 percent of the total KRG population, according to Rudaw News.

“We suggest that 200,000 to 900,000 IDPs will flee to Erbil, and two places have been designated to take in refugees once the battle for Mosul has resumed,” said Erbil’s deputy governor Tahir Abdullah.

Abdullah also claimed that Erbil province has received less than half the funds the Iraqi immigration ministry has allocated for incoming waves of IDPs. Only $15 million of a promised $32 million has been transferred, but Sulaimani province, also in Iraqi Kurdistan, has received all $20 million of its allocated budget, he told Rudaw.

Tens of Thousands of Migrants Arrived in Italy This Year After Deadly Sea Journey

In the first five months of this year, roughly 46,100 migrants have arrived on Italy’s shores but thousands more are still waiting to cross the Mediterranean.

The number of migrants who have made the perilous journey on the Mediterranean Sea this year is not far off the total for the same period last year, U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman Carlotta Sami told the Italian newspaper La Stampa. However, the last week has seen a sharp increase in the frequency of rescue operations, which indicates that the summer months will herald an influx of migrants traveling on this sea route from Libya to Italy.

In the past week, some 700 migrants were feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean and at least 13,000 more were rescued from several shipwrecks. About 2,000 people have died this year while attempting the sea journey, according to Bloomberg News.

Some 800,000 migrants are still waiting in Libya, hoping to be smuggled to Europe, Gulf News reported.

“What is characteristic of the smuggling networks in Libya is the proliferation of actors, ranging from ordinary Libyan citizens offering their services to refugees, to former militiamen and law enforcement officers,” Frontex, the European Union’s border patrol agency, said in its latest report.

Smuggling networks in Libya have become a very profitable business. Last year, smugglers made some $5 billion from transporting refugees to Europe, according to a report from Europol.

“Due to the increasingly profitable business of smuggling migrants by sea, the crossing has become even more risky for the migrants as the networks start to compete with each other, which in turn affects the security of the refugees even more,” Frontex analysts said. “Refugees speak of cruel and aggressive smugglers forcing larger numbers of people onto the rubber boats, often at gunpoint, to squeeze more money from each trip.”

More Than 1 Million Afghans Displaced by War

Some 1.2 million Afghans have been displaced within the country due to ongoing violence, according to Amnesty International.

The number of Afghans displaced due to conflict has more than doubled in the past three years. In 2013, there were some 500,000 Afghan IDPs.

After 15 years of war, Afghanistan has one of the highest refugee populations in the world. An estimated 2.6 million people left the country because of the conflict, including some 178,000 who fled last year, according to the Associated Press.

“While the world’s attention seems to have moved on from Afghanistan, we risk forgetting the plight of those left behind by the conflict,” Champa Patel, South Asia director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “Even after fleeing their homes to seek safety, increasing numbers of Afghans are languishing in appalling conditions in their own country, and fighting for their survival with no end in sight.”

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