Iraqi and Syrian refugees are flowing into Erbil

Iraqi displaced children run in an alley of a temporary camp set up to shelter Iraqis fleeing violence on June 16, 2014 in Aski kalak, west of the Kurdish autonomous region's capital Arbil. 

As many as half a million people have fled Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities, after violence instigated by ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) rocked the country's north. Most of the refugees have been heading up to the Iraqi city of Erbil, because it is currently the safest place to go to. Refugees are also coming into Erbil from Syria and several other Iraqi cities.

Despite the takeover, many of the internal refugees began heading back to Mosul after just a few days. BBC Correspondent Rami Ruhayem says their biggest fear was an attack from the Iraqi army and not the Islamic military.

Although Mosul is facing some economic problems with the military invasion, like high gas prices and supply shortages, Ruhayem says it’s hard to verify how bad the situation really is.

"The people we spoke to that are going back say it’s OK," says Ruhayem. "They say they have nothing to fear as civilians from the militants. They only feared an Iraqi army assault in order to chase the militants out, and they also said services were OK."

The possibility of things getting worse in Mosul and the rest of Iraq is there. But how will the Kurdish Provincial Government handle all of the displaced people?

"They’re actually doing a really good job of handling it. And it’s probably because of the organization, security and the prosperity that this province is enjoying in very sharp contrast to the rest of Iraq," says Ruhayem.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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