To put the European refugee crisis into a realistic perspective: watch these pictures and read the story by Belgium journalist Pieter Stockmans and photographer Baram Maaruf.


The refugee flow to the wealthy continent of Europe is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a minor crisis compared to the real refugee crisis hitting Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, where resources are not so plenty as in Europe. Belgium is not overwhelmed by a flood of refugees like Kurdistan. Many internal Iraqi refugees from areas which have been taken by IS flee to the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Most refugees remain in the region, and within the sphere of influence of the conflicts of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Browse through these photos by photographer Baram Maaruf and you might get a better understanding of the scope of the “crisis” in Europe: limited and perfectly manageable. It’s a not a “refugee crisis”, but a crisis of “political will”.



Arbat Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp is located outside the city of Sulaymaniyah in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. It is one of the most overcrowded refugee camps in Iraq. The camp was supposed to house 800 displaced Iraqi families, but now there are more than 2000 families (23.000 people). In each tent there are several families. It was established for Syrian refugees as a transit camp, but it turned into a camp for internally displaced Iraqi refugees. As the crisis in Iraq enters its second year with no political or military solution in sight, the government and aid groups are being forced to seek longer-term humanitarian solutions for the more than three million displaced by violence across the country.

It’s a short drive to a new camp location just five km away: Ashti Camp. UNHCR and its partners began to move residents to better-equipped facilities in June 2015. Ashti camp, was recently completed and will eventually accommodate some 1000 families who will be moved from Arbat Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp. They are displaced Iraqis sheltering in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. It looks like the foundation of a new village. Instead of pitched upon packed earth, tents here rest on poured concrete foundations. Plumbing is underground and electric wiring runs along poles that neatly follow the camp’s grid layout.

The third refugee camp is a permanent camp for 6000 Syrian refugees, mainly Kurds from Kobani and Qamishlo. It looks like a village with paved roads, electricity wires, shops, little brick houses. Even though the whole “village” looks miserable, it is much “better” compared to Arbat Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp.