Life in Domiz 1 camp: your questions answered

Domiz 1 camp is the home of our headquarters in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and one of our community gardens, Azadi.

We regularly get asked questions about the set-up and infrastructure of refugee and IDP (internally displaced people) camps, as well as the living conditions there, so we wanted to share what we know.

Here goes…

Domiz 1 infrastucture

🌿 How many refugees live in Domiz 1 camp?

Domiz 1 is the largest refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq home to approximately 32,000 people, spread over just 1.2 km².

🌿 Where are Domiz 1 residents from?

Most of the camp’s residents are Syrians who have fled the ongoing armed conflict in Syria with their families.

🌿 Who runs Domiz 1 and how long has the camp existed?

Like all the camps in the region, Domiz 1 is managed by the Kurdistan Regional Government with support from UNHCR and other national and international NGOs. The camp was established in early 2012 following the outbreak of war in Syria.

In 2013, a second camp, Domiz 2 was established to take the overflow from Domiz 1 and is now home to more than 10,000 residents.

🌿 Do residents have a voice on how the camp is operated?

Residents are regularly asked for their opinions about how things are being run. Wherever possible, NGOs operating in camp employ residents within the camp.

Day to day living

🌿 What are living conditions like for people who live there?

When Domiz 1 camp was first established, people were accommodated in tents. But now, each household is assigned a small plot of land and can build their own home with whatever materials they can access, along with gardens in the space around them. It’s a tightly packed network of neighbourhoods.

🌿 How are basic needs met (e.g. food, clothing and medical care)?

The Kurdistan Regional Government manages all camps in the region, with support from a range of national and international organisations. Medical care is provided in Domiz 1 and other camps, with many run by the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s Barzani Charity Foundation.

There is help for people who do not have a steady income with regular food parcels and clothing donations. Many people have however found a way to support their family without the need for additional help.

The camp has a medical centre for emergency care. This is provided free of charge. People can also access additional help from nearby hospitals, although this carries a cost.

🌿 Are there schools?

Yes, there are a few schools in the camp and most children attend, either in the morning or the afternoon. All children are encouraged to attend school. Education is provided free of charge.

🌿 What is the availability of internet connection?

Although many people have access to some kind of smart phone, data is expensive and WiFi is only available at certain locations within the camp. (We have WiFi for our team at Azadi garden for example.) But connectivity is an issue and it is not always possible for people to access the internet. 

🌿 How do people earn a living?

People living in Domiz 1 can work, although employment opportunities within the camp are limited. People are able to leave the camp and so can travel to work in nearby towns and cities if they can find it.

The Lemon Tree Trust has created jobs within the camp, employing residents to run and maintain the community gardening space and distribute plants and seeds to residents in Domiz 1 and other camps in the region. In the longer-term, our aim is to create further economic opportunities via refugee-led small business enterprises and partnerships with larger corporate businesses in the region.

🌿 How do people access day to day supplies?

Small businesses have sprung up in the camp to cater for people’s daily needs. These include barbers, bakeries, grocery stores and even wedding dress shops. Trade is often done via a bartering system, as money is scarce.

🌿 Is there enough water for both humans and gardens?

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, access to water is relatively good. In Domiz 1, the majority of shelters have running water for sanitation and drinking.

While supplies can be short in the summer months, when there is often a drought, we generally find that people have enough for their own needs and usually find water to irrigate their gardens. We advocate the use of grey water to irrigate ornamental plants.

Looking to the future

🌿 How long do people typically stay in Domiz 1?

Refugee camps are not as temporary as their name suggests – many exist for decades. Once displaced, people usually live in camps for years. For many, Domiz 1 has become their home.

🌿 What is the likely future for people living in Domiz 1 camp?

Many live in hope that they will be able to return home but feel the current political situation means it is far too dangerous. Some people travel to Europe, but most have settled here. Over time we expect Domiz 1 will become a permanent settlement.

🌿 Will conditions be improved, e.g. will buildings be made more substantial, etc?

The future of camps, including Domiz 1, is currently unclear. We expect Domiz 1 to continue to be developed, both by residents who continually update and improved their properties, and by the regional government and the agencies that support their work with forcibly displaced people.

🌿 What’s the best way for people help?

One of the best things people can do is help spread the word of organisations like ours who are positively supporting people, from the ground up, to move on with their lives.

Look for local organisations who are supporting families in your area – there will be several.

The media and government rhetoric around forced migration is still largely negative, but people have been forced to move for thousands of years and this will continue to be the case. We are all human and we would all do anything possible to keep our families safe. So in general, welcoming and helping people from different cultures to integrate and start new lives is a really positive thing that we can do 💚

Want to support residents in Domiz 1 to garden?

The Lemon Tree Trust welcomes one-off and regular donations.

To make a donation, please go to: lemontreetrust.org/donate.

Our core infrastructure costs are fully funded so 100% of your donation directly supports gardening projects and initiatives in refugee communities.

  • $1 / £1 can give a family a packet of vegetable seeds 
  • $5 / £5 can provide a family a basket of nutritious produce 
  • $25 / £25 can fund a Home Garden Starter Kit for a new family arriving in the camp, containing a Home Garden Manual, seeds, tools, a grow-bag and a children’s gardening activity

 

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