Iraq opens 2nd camp to cope with Syrian Kurd influx

Refugee Syrians fleeing the Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria are pictured October 21, 2019 arriving at the Bardarach camp, which is at capacity, according to the UN (AFP Photo/SAFIN HAMED)

Bardarach (Iraq) (AFP) - The United Nations on Saturday opened a new section of a camp for the displaced in Iraqi Kurdistan to host refugees fleeing Turkish troops in northeast Syria.

"Around 11,000 refugees are now living in Bardarach, which is at capacity," said Rashid Hussein Rashid, spokesman for the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

"So we opened a new section of the Gawilan camp to host 310 refugees who arrived today from Syria," Rashid added.

Gawilan camp has already been hosting 1,850 families who fled to Iraq when conflict first erupted in neighbouring Syria in 2011.

Ankara and its Syrian rebel allies launched an operation on October 9 against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as a "terrorist" group for its links to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The offensive has killed dozens of civilians, mainly on the Kurdish side, and prompted an exodus of tens of thousands, in the latest humanitarian crisis of Syria's eight-year civil war.

Rashid said less than the normal number of refugees had crossed to Iraq on Saturday as Syrian government troops had moved into the area, blocking the refugees' passage.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has said the number of cross-border refugees could swell to as much as 50,000.