Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Prime Minister’s Office
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister
Re: Urgent Action to Preserve the Status and Security of Maxmur Refugee Camp
Peace in Kurdistan writes to draw the attention of yourself and your government to the plight of Maxmur Refugee Camp, in Northern Iraq.
The camp has led a precarious existence since it was established in 1998 under UN protection but it has faced repeated air attacks from Turkey and pressures from the Iraqi authorities. The camp, located some 60 km from Erbil, is the home to around 12,000 Kurdish families who have fled the fighting inside Turkey. These vulnerable refugees are presently facing a threat to their very existence from the actions of the Iraqi military and persistent attacks from Turkish forces, including repeated aerial bombardments.
This renewed threat to the camp is a matter of profound concern and urgent action is needed to ensure the security of the people in the camp and allow them to live in safety under UN protection. The camp residents have clearly defined rights as refugees, and their status must be protected.
Within recent days, as widely reported, the Iraqi army has laid siege to the camp and in an act of great provocation to the residents hundreds of soldiers and armoured vehicles have been positioned while heavy construction equipment has been brought in to dig trenches and erect barbed wire fences and watchtowers around the camp. The Kurdish residents, who have been running their own administration in the camp, have been resisting these latest actions by the Iraqi army which pose a direct threat to their survival.
The camp has endured heavy embargo since July 2019 which was imposed by the KDP who run the Erbil region. The people of the camp have faced severe restrictions on their movement and been prevented from travelling to KRG run cities in South Kurdistan to carry out their normal daily business such as to purchase goods and obtain essential supplies.
Persistently, Turkey has been pressurising the Iraqi and UN authorities to evict Kurds from the camp, despite the fact that they are recognised as refugees by the UNHCR.
The area around the camp has come under repeated aerial bombardment by Turkish forces over recent times including in August 2022 when a drone attack killed one person and in February 2022 which an air attack left at least two dead and caused numerous serious injuries.
The camp was formally established as a place of safety for Kurds fleeing attacks by Turkish armed forces and the residents have received protected status as UN recognised refugees. An embargo by the KDP led Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and the recent siege by the Iraqi army are now exerting severe pressure on the refugees who must be allowed to access the means to ensure their survival in a secure and safe environment.
The residents of Maxmur Refugee Camp, who after so many years are unable to return home to safety, must continue to receive protection under international law like any other person of refugee status.
The UN needs to step up and fulfil its responsibilities. The Iraqi authorities, including the KRG, need to step back and life the threat to the camp and its residents, whose living conditions are under extreme pressure and who at present have nowhere else to go where they can feel safe.
Peace in Kurdistan demands urgent action to relieve the persistent pressure on the Maxmur Camp residents and that proper protection is guaranteed until the residents are allowed to return home. Their most ardent wishes are to be able to live in safety in their own homes and villages. Unfortunately, this is obviously not a possibility as long as the conflict with Turkey in the Kurdish region continues and remains unresolved. Until that time, they must be protected.
The UN and Iraqi authorities must live up to their obligations.
We call on you and your government to exert influence to ensure the survival of the camp and that it remains a place of safety for these vulnerable people who literally have nowhere else to go.
We look forward to your urgent response.
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid: 07846 666 804 & Melanie Gingell: 07572 430903
Patrons: John Austin, Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Maggie Cook, UNISON women activist; Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell MP; Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, David Morgan, journalist, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Trevor Rayne, writer, Joe Ryan, Bert Schouwenburg, International Trade Union Adviser; Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist, Steve Sweeney, journalist, Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Federico Venturini, Associate Researcher, University of Udine, Italy; Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward, former MEP, Kariane Westrheim, Chair, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Hywel Williams MP.