UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday (May 31) that around 3,700 people – 624 families – have fled Fallujah since the new offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the city began last week, according to figures provided by authorities.
About 1,300 of those people are staying in al-Iraq camp in the Amiriyat al –Fallujah district in Anbar governorate, where UNHCR is working. Others are scattered in one of several other government-run camps in the district or are staying with relatives.
Spindler noted that Iraqi forces are helping to transport families escaping the city, and have set up a hotline (195) to provide information to people wanting to leave.
“UNHCR understands approximately 500 men and boys over 12-years-old are held for security screening which can take five to seven days. People are being released after this process, and we understand some 27 men were released yesterday (Monday 30 May),” he told reporters at the Palais des Nations.
Between 40,000 and 50,000 civilians still remain trapped inside in Fallujah, prevented from escaping by militants as the city continues to come under heavy bombardment by Iraqi forces. In December, routes out of the city were cut off and civilians prevented from leaving.