Inside an Evacuee Camp in Northern Iraq

9th November 2016

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Walking into the dusty camp, I realise I am no longer reading the news reports — I am living them.

I stare out of the chain-link fence that surrounds the camp in Khazir and watch as thousands of refugees arrive in a convoy of military vehicles, buses, and personal cars—each packed with Iraqis searching and longing for a better life.

The vehicles emptied of refugees and displaced people and immediately turned back toward the front lines, ready to make another trip. As I watched the people, I realised their hands were empty. They brought no luggage, no bags, and no supplies. Many arrived with only the clothes on their backs. Some women’s arms were burdened with babies and young children and they lacked anything to ease the hardship of the road ahead.

Once through the security checkpoints, their eyes filled with fear, shock, and sadness. After years of living under threat of ISIS, they have finally escaped—but their freedom is costly.

Instead of living under threat of attack, they now live inside a fence with thousands of other refugees. Many have lost loved ones in the conflict or were separated from their families. They gave up their home, possessions, and life as they know it. They didn’t ask for this. They never wanted to carry the name ‘internally displaced person’ or ‘refugee’; yet they find themselves living in a village of tents.

The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. As military forces advance into Mosul’s city centre, more and more Iraqis will be forced to flee for their lives. Despite this tragedy, there is still hope.

Samaritan’s Purse is working to bring displaced people hope by distributing food, water, blankets, cook stoves, hygiene kits, and other life-saving supplies. Finally, they have something to call their own. Women can cook a meal for their family. Men can provide shelter from the cold. A new sense of normality can be established.

Slowly, I see trust settle into their eyes and hope buoy their steps. They are resilient and strong.

As one beneficiary, Ibrahim, said: ‘The life keeps going, so we need to keep going.’

Read more from the northern Iraq team.

Read more about how Samaritan’s Purse is serving in the Mosul crisis.

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