By Mukhlis Khoshnaw
IRBIL, Feb 8 (KUNA) -- The problem of migration from Kurdistan cropped up in the recent months as poor living conditions and rising rates of unemployment forced thousands of Kurdish youths to flee to Europe.
More than 27,000 people have left the northern Iraqi region for Europe via Turkey and Greece this year, said Amanc Abdulllah, an official of the Iraqi refugee union in the region.
"Bad weather conditions in winter, coupled with dangerous routes, made the voyage of migrants fraught with peril. Yet, the numbers of migrants and migrant deaths are on the rise," he said in statements to KUNA.
On the motives behind this phenomenon, Hamza Redha, a Kurdish would-be migrant, said: "I've never dreamt of leaving my homeland, but the poor economic and political conditions in Kurdistan forced me to do so." "Since I graduated from college in 2012, I have failed to find a suitable job. If I stay in the region, I'll get nothing," the young man added.
Mosleh Mohammad, a lawyer, said the economic situation in the region worsened dramatically after the so-called Islamic State (IS) took control of Mosul and cut the trade route between the city and other parts of Iraq.
"Most of foreign companies were forced to stop operating in the region, thus driving up the unemployment rates among the Kurdish youths, which, in turn, prompted the youths to travel to Europe in pursuit of job opportunities," he explained.
He voiced hope that this problem will come to an end soon and that people will realize the risks posed by migration to their own lives and lives of their children.
Regarding the precarious journey to Europe, Dashti Jamal, secretary of the Iraqi refugee union, said that 134 Kurdish migrants drowned in the Aegean waters last month.
"A total of 388 illegal immigrants faced the same destiny last year," he said at a press conference in Sulaymaniyah city on Saturday.
"The number of such victims could rise unless the competent authorities work to address the living conditions through urgent political, economic and social reforms," Jamal warned.
He estimated the Iraqi arrivals in Europe last year at 200,000.
The recurrent migrant boat accidents in the Aegean Sea have claimed the lives of 218 Iraqis since the beginning of 2016, and 805 others last year, according to the figures of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
More than 52,000 immigrants were able to reach the Greek islands since early January, while 850,000 arrived there from the Middle East region last year.
IOM estimated, in a press release on Friday, that Mediterranean migrant and refugee arrivals in Italy and Greece reached 74,676 through February 4. The first four days of February saw 7,483 arrivals - surpassing the 6,834 recorded for the entire month of February in 2015.
The worsening economic conditions in Kurdistan rendered the regional government unable to pay salaries to employees over the last five months; the government had to cut the salaries by 15 - 75 percent. (end) sbr.gb