Mr. Chair, honourable members of this House, ladies and gentlemen, it's an honour for me to address this committee today on World AIDS Day.
Thank you for providing me with this opportunity to testify on Canada's plan to resettle victims of the atrocities attributed to ISIS, notably Yazidi women and girls. As this is my first opportunity to appear before this committee since I have been in Canada as the new representative of the UNHCR, I should first add my voice of appreciation to the Canadian public for their outpouring of support for the public mobilization with their government at all levels for the resettlement and sponsorship of thousands of refugees in need.
By the end of this year, we expect that well over 40,000 refugees will have landed in Canada by means of resettlement. This is a record high number. I also wish to commend this Parliament, this House, for its consistently high level of support for resettlement to Canada of the most vulnerable refugees, and also for its support for the record level of funding of UNHCR operations this year, received from both the government and the Canadian private sector.
We are all longing for an end to the conflict that is fuelling the humanitarian situation in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. The entangled conflicts in Iraq and Syria account for almost a quarter of the world's displaced. The Syrian war, now in its sixth year, continues to be the cause of the biggest humanitarian crisis, with 6.5 million Syrian people internally displaced and 4.8 million Syrian refugees abroad.
Iraq, and that is mainly the core of attention today, is experiencing a growing humanitarian crisis amid ongoing conflict, restrictions on humanitarian access, diminishing coping mechanisms, and funding shortfalls. As a result of the conflict, continuous displacement, and disruption of services, the protection needs of the population are very large. In all, today in Iraq more than 3.18 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since January 2014. That is in addition to the over one million Iraqis displaced since the sectarian conflicts of the mid-2000s. One out of 10 Iraqis at the moment has been forceably uprooted. A further 230,000 Iraqis have sought refuge outside, in other countries in the region.
There are 6,700 Iraqis from in and around Mosul who have taken the extraordinary step of fleeing into Syria, into the al-Hasakah governorate in the northeast of war-torn Syria where both of us were some years ago. You might be interested to hear that of the 6,700 Iraqis in al-Hasakah, 2,260 are Iraqi Yazidi.
As a result of the current conflict in Iraq, the situation of women and girls is of utmost concern. This is an understatement. As your committee is aware, in ISIS- controlled areas abduction, sexual slavery, rape, forced marriage, forced abortion, and killings have been reported, affecting women and girls belonging to religious and ethnic minority groups, including and in particular Yazidi women and girls.
I am here today to explain to your Parliament our plans with the Canadian government in response to your motion to resettle victims of ISIS out of the region within the next 120 days, and in particular Yazidi women and girls.
As you know, the identification of refugees for resettlement is based on independent criteria established with resettlement countries. These criteria are informed by specific vulnerabilities covering protection concerns in the countries of asylum. They aim to identify survivors of violence and torture, including sexual violence, women and children at risk, refugees with medical needs, LGBTI refugees, refugees at risk of detention or expulsion, and so on.
The resettlement referrals of Iraqi refugees that UNHCR is currently preparing for Canada focus on the victims of the atrocities meted out by ISIS, notably women and girls, and then in particular the members of minorities, such as Yazidi women and girls. Given the unspeakable human rights abuses experienced by Yazidi women and girls, we will be able to identify them through this process, which, however, will also benefit other women and girls facing a similar plight.
In order for UNHCR to identify refugees for resettlement, they need to be registered as such. In Turkey, where large numbers of Yazidi have sought refuge, they need to register not just with UNHCR but also with the Turkish authorities if they wish to be able to leave the country by means of resettlement. As many Yazidi so far have not done so, we are, as the UNHCR, actively encouraging them to get registered in order to enable us to refer them for resettlement.
Recognizing that resettlement is a voluntary activity, an additional but important issue is whether the refugees wish to be resettled, since in some cases Yazidi refugees have informed us that they wish to stay in the region in the hope of reuniting with their families still in Iraq or, from their country of refuge, to continue caring for the members of their families in Iraq. Other Yazidis do not wish to leave neighbouring countries, notably Turkey, because they hope to return home in the very near future.
To give you a few figures, in recent years the UNHCR has referred 1,445 Yazidis for resettlement to resettlement countries in the world at large. In 2015 alone, we submitted for resettlement over 10,000 Iraqi nationals, Iraqi refugees, out of the region. Of that number, 3.6%—373—were Iraqi Yazidis.
At the moment, we continue to refer Yazidi refugees, both Iraqi Yazidi and Syrian Yazidi, to the Canadian missions in the countries around Iraq and Syria for resettlement consideration in response to your motion. Given their extreme vulnerability, Yazidi registered refugees in Turkey, but also in Lebanon and in other countries, are clearly eligible for referral for resettlement—it's obvious—because they have been subject to atrocious forms of violence and exploitation. I've mentioned it.
When we look at the Yazidis still in northern Iraq, where they are internally displaced, we see that UNHCR and its partners are continuing their protection and assistance programs, if not stepping them up. They cover a very wide range of services and activities. They involve our presence in areas affected by serious disturbance or conflict in northern Iraq, where physical safety and security for our staff are concerns. Still, we are operating there, and we provide the services. We do this to provide life-saving protection and assistance to families, making sure that they have adequate shelter and basic household items, including mattresses, stoves, and kitchen and hygiene sets. More and more, we also provide cash assistance to IDPs so that they themselves can make the best choices for how to care for their own needs.