iraq bomb 298.88.
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported this month that at least 914,000 Iraqis have left their homes since the US-led invasion in 2003, with more than a third fleeing since an increase in sectarian bloodshed at the start of this year.
Syria and Jordan have received a majority of the displaced who left Iraq, with at least 40,000 Iraqis arriving in Syria every month for the last four months, the agency said. More than 500,000 Iraqis live in Syria.
According to a report released this month by the UNHCR, the UN Children's Fund and the World Food Program, 48 percent of the Iraqi refugees in Syria are children, 90% fled because of security fears, 58% are Shi'ite and a majority are from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Though they receive Syrian government health care and refugee children are permitted to attend school, Syria does not issue the Iraqi refugees work permits and many are unemployed or work illegally.
As a result, many say the money they have saved is quickly dwindling. Most of the refugees are middle class and live primarily in and around Damascus.
One 37-year-old Iraqi refugee living in Syria, who asked to remain anonymous for fear that relatives still living in Iraq would be harmed, said he left Iraq last year after his family started receiving threats from militias.
Though he said he feels comfortable in Syria because the Iraqi dialect of Arabic and traditions are familiar, he worries that the money he makes working at a pickle shop near Damascus won't cover food and rent on the home he shares with his brother.
"We worry about the future... No solution to the Iraqi issue seems near," he said.