One of the most tragic consequences of the war in Iraq is the mass exodus of Iraqis, which began in 2003 and has continued to the present. According to some estimates, 2 million Iraqis have fled the country and 2 million have moved from the most dangerous areas, such as Baghdad, to the relatively safer North of the country. To date, despite the huge numbers, the media has neglected the problem.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are stranded in Syria, Jordan and Turkey waiting to receive asylum in Western countries running programs for refugees (mainly the United States, Australia and Canada).
The number of Iraqi refugees in Turkey is small if compared to Syria and Jordan; however, there are at least 20 thousand people, concentrated mainly in Istanbul. Iraqis go to Turkey because it is easy to enter the country and because asylum applications are processed faster than in Syria or Jordan. Turkey doesn’t accept non-European refugees. For this reason, asylum applications are examined and handled by UNHCR: the waiting time varies from a few months to a few years. The nerve-wrecking wait is made harder by the lack of work permits allowed and, for the young generations, by the impossibility, due to language barrier and other bureaucratic problems, to attend school.
The United States, Australia and Canada are the Western countries accepting the highest number of Iraqi refugees, but it is just a few thousand every year, while hundreds of thousands keep waiting for their life to be taken out of the limbo of uncertainty.
The need for stability is well expressed in the words of 14-year-old Ninab: “I’ve seen all my friends arrive and leave, but my family is still here. All our asylum applications have been rejected, we don’t know why. Nobody has given us an explanation. I speak Turkish, I love Istanbul, but we are temporary here and I cannot wait to start a new life in any country which will finally accept us.”