Yezidi refugees © Stefanie Jarkel
Five years ago, the IS attack on Yazidis in Iraq caused worldwide horror. To this day, the region is barely inhabitable and dominated by militias. A court nevertheless sees no reason for the victims to have regular refugee status.
The areas traditionally inhabited by Yazidis in northern Iraq are still unsafe a year and a half after the military victory over the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS). A Foreign Office spokesman described the security situation as "precarious". Although the Sinjar region is formally under Baghdad's control, the Iraqi government can "only provide limited security". Numerous militias are present there. This is a major obstacle to the return of Yazidi IDPs to their homes, she said.
The Sinjar region had been invaded by IS fighters five years ago – in early August 2014. The terrorists killed the men, and the women and girls were sold as sex slaves.
Many missing and displaced
Many of them are still missing. Tens of thousands of people fled to the mountains then, where they waited for help in intense heat and little shade. Before the IS attack, about 600.000 Yazidis lived in the Sinjar region. Today, it is estimated that there are only about 40.000.
According to the German Foreign Office, there are still around 300 in Iraq.000 Yazidi internally displaced persons. Of them, 87 percent would have said in a survey that they did not want to return to their homeland. In addition to the difficult security situation, the reasons for this are the destroyed infrastructure, the lack of basic necessities for subsistence as well as severe trauma and great mistrust of the Arab neighbors. However, the situation varies greatly from place to place in some cases.
No regular refugee status
Nevertheless, Yazidis are not entitled to regular refugee status, according to recent court rulings. Last Tuesday, the Lower Saxony Higher Administrative Court had ruled in two rulings that Yazidis from the Sinjar region "do not face group persecution" if they return (case numbers 9 LB 133/19 and 9 LB 148/19).
In the first instance, an Iraqi Yazidi and his sister were granted refugee status in Germany on the amption of group persecution. But the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) had rejected this and only granted subordinate "subsidiary protection".
At the request of the Bamf, the Higher Administrative Court allowed the appeal in order to clarify in principle the question of whether Yazidis are subject to group persecution because of their religious affiliation. This is "not sufficiently probable at present following the military pushback against the Islamic State," the court said. An appeal to the Federal Administrative Court was not admitted.
Yazidis in Iraq receive only little attention
Subsidiary protection is granted in Germany if there is no danger to life and limb due to discrimination against an entire group, but in a specific case. Refugees with such protection status must have it renewed annually and generally have a harder time bringing their closest relatives – spouses or minor children – to join them.
Meanwhile, the Yazidis in Iraq are receiving less and less attention. The aid organization Care said, "We are at a crucial turning point: humanitarian aid money is increasingly going to other parts of the country."According to the Bonn-based aid agency's project officer for Iraq, Lena Siedentopp, international donors are following the media attention focused on crisis areas such as the former IS stronghold of Mol.
But the people who fled five years ago are still holding out in the camps, he said. It warned in Dohuk, northern Iraq, where many refugee camps are, that funding shortfalls could put many lives at risk.