Syria swamped by Iraqi refugees: Nearly 1,000 arrive a day, driven from homes by violence. By Hannah Allam
“Nobody used the word “crisis” when the first wave of Iraqis fled the war and settled here.”
Iraqi Refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic. By Ashraf al-Khalidi, Sophia Hoffmann, Victor Tanner.
“The Syrian state offers public services to Iraqis, including free access to schools and emergency health care. No evidence was found to show that some groups received preferential service. Fortunately, for the time being, sectarianism has not spilled over the Iraqi-Syrian border. Except for the predominantly Shi’a district of Sayyida Zeinab, most Iraqis live in mixed neighborhoods.
The sudden population influx has created a drastic increase in demand for goods and services. As many basic needs are subsidized by the state, the refugee crisis has placed a large financial burden on the Syrian government. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2006 the state had to foot the bill for a 35% increase in subsidized bread ($34 million) and the influx of 30,000 Iraqi students ($18 million).
Many Syrians blame the Iraqi refugees for recent rises in unemployment, the cost of basic goods and, above all, rent prices. In some Damascus neighborhoods apartment rental prices have doubled or even tripled since the outbreak of the war. The perceived impact of the Iraqi refugees is such that many Syrians in everyday conversation will say that there are between three and six million Iraqis in Syria.”