Iraqi Kurds seek funds from oil companies for Syria refugees

Reuters
Syrian refugees, fleeing the violence in their country, cross the border into the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq
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Syrian refugees, fleeing the violence in their country, cross the border into the autonomous Kurdish …

ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi Kurdistan has asked oil companies operating in the autonomous region for $50 million to help deal with an influx of refugees from Syria that has put a strain on its resources.

Around 200,000 refugees, many of them from Syria's own Kurdish minority, have poured into the self-ruled enclave in northern Iraq since the start of the conflict more than two years ago.

The number of refugees crossing monthly into Iraqi Kurdistan surged to more than 40,000 in August after rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made incursions into the country's northeast, where many Kurds reside.

"Given the huge scale of the crisis and the number of refugees arriving daily we all need to work together to provide more urgently needed help," Kurdistan's minister for natural resources, Ashti Hawrami, said in a statement.

The Kurdistan Regional Government pledged to match contributions from the oil industry dollar-for-dollar.

In recent years, Kurdistan has signed lucrative contracts on its own terms with oil majors such as ExxonMobil and Chevron Corp, antagonizing the Iraqi central government, which claims sole authority to manage the country's crude.

A near 10-fold increase over the past 12 months in the rate of refugees crossing Syria's borders into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon pushed the total living abroad above 2 million earlier this month, the United Nations said.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Alison Williams)

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