Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Kurdish boy from Syria, was seeking asylum in the EU when his small raft capsized on its way from Turkey to Greece. One of many tragic stories coming from the Syrian refugee crisis, Aylan and his five-year-old brother, Galip, did not survive.
Syrian Refugee Crisis: Nearly 10 Million Displaced
Aylan and Galip were not the only ones trying to make their way to Europe. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 3.8 million refugees have fled Syria for neighboring countries including Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. The UNHCR also estimates that 7.6 million more internally displaced persons (IDPs) exist within Syria’s borders.
By comparison, the estimated number of IDPs from the Syrian crisis (10 million) is greater than the entire population of New York City (8.7 million).
A Home in Iraqi Kurdistan
Ever since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, refugees have been fleeing into the Kurdish region of Iraq. Also known as Iraqi Kurdistan, the region is administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The KRG has opened its arms to hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of whom have come across the border from Syria.
According to a World Bank report in early 2015, the Kurdish region of Iraq has welcomed over 1.26 million IDPs. More recent estimates put that number at 1.6 million IDPs. By comparison, this number is greater than the size of the United States’ active duty military servicemembers (1.36 million).
According to the UNHCR, the entire number of refugees and IDPs in Iraq is over 4 million.
The refugees and IDPs in Iraqi Kurdistan have come from all different backgrounds, and include people of all nationalities, ethnicities, and religious beliefs.
Finding Homes In Europe
Before the civil war, the secondary education enrollment rate in Syria was well over 75%, and the tertiary (university-level) enrollment rate in Syria was over 25%. Today, those rates have effectively dropped to zero. These students have fled their homes, and many have found refuge in the Kurdish regions.
Other Kurdish refugees from Syria have been welcomed in European countries like Germany. Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Syrian refugees would be welcome to stay in Germany and apply for asylum. In addition to helping refugees, Merkel’s move may inspire other European governments looking for guidance during the refugee crisis.