Press Release

January 08, 2022 - ICHRRF report on The Iraqi Kurdish Migration to Europe in 2020-2021

ICHRRF expresses concern at the dire condition of the Kurdish migrants in the Belarus-Poland borders and the politics played with the escalating migration crisis in Europe. According to the report by Dr Heshu Rahman, Honorary Director of Outreach for Kurdish Communities, thousands of Iraqi and Kurdish people have been trying to enter the EU via Belarus in recent months to build better lives. Unfortunately, several migrants have died on the border so far.

Although the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq is rich with oil resources and a reputation for being relatively secure, stable and prosperous, the people want to flee the region due to the grim Human Rights situation in Kurdistan and across the Middle East, as well as endemic nepotism, patronage networks and corruption, lack of fair economic and social opportunities. According to the Kurdistan Refugee Association, about 36,000 Kurds have left the region in the past three months, of whom 1,600 have gone to Belarus on tourist visas. Tensions escalated when Poland deployed its troops along the border, and Russia, Belarus, Poland started a blame game politics. The European Union has accused Belarus of orchestrating the border's humanitarian disaster to punish it for imposing sanctions against it.

However, Kurdish authorities claim that initiatives are underway to voluntarily bring these migrants back to Iraqi Kurdistan. Accordingly, about 3000 migrants returned to Iraq's Kurdish Autonomous Region in late 2021. In addition, more than 1000 Iraqis are now being enlisted in coordination with Iraqi Airways from Minsk. However, many are reluctant to return to the insecure, poor life in the homeland. Both Iraq and the Kurdistan Autonomous Region follow a longstanding policy of refusing forced repatriations of their citizens, accepting only those who voluntarily return.

Stuck in a dire situation, the migrants are in a remote zone, mainly inaccessible to humanitarian aid and media. They are hungry and thirsty, and cries are growing louder for help. But the humanitarian crisis and the escalation of tensions between Poland, Belarus and Russia is playing out into different dimensions. Kurdish migrant representatives believe that these people are becoming the victims of ratcheting political tensions.