Continued closure of Faysh Khabur–Semalka border crossing poses serious threat to North and East Syria, warns ECHO

NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Civil Aid Operations (ECHO) has expressed grave concern over the ongoing closure of the Faysh Khabur–Semalka crossing connecting North and East Syria and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The statement highlighted the severe impact it has on over two million people in North and East Syria who rely on daily humanitarian aid entering through the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)-controlled border crossing, situated near the tri-point of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

On 24 May, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the European Union released a statement revealing that approximately 300 employees of international humanitarian organizations were evacuated from North and East Syria following the KRG’s decision to close the crossing.

The European Union Foundation has also sounded the alarm regarding the repercussions of this closure on the lives of individuals in North and East Syria. They have urged donors and stakeholders to maintain the neutrality of the sole humanitarian crossing into the region, considering the ongoing disputes and differences between the respective authorities.

Alicia Allgaur, an aid worker at Volkshilfe Osterreich (People’s Aid Austria), shared her personal experience with Al-Monitor, stating that she and several colleagues were unable to enter North and East Syria on Monday. She expressed disappointment, saying, “We wanted to go to North and East Syria to visit our project partners for the first time, to get to know their team, see their work, visit beneficiaries, and conduct monitoring visits.”

Allgaur lamented the extensive planning and resources that went into the trip, including the cancellation of a workshop with local colleagues. She emphasized the significant hardships faced by the people they serve and their project partners due to the closure.

Additionally, Al-Monitor reported that UN agencies no longer possess a cross-border mandate to operate in North and East Syria, necessitating approval from Damascus to carry out humanitarian operations in the area.

The Faysh Khabur–Semalka crossing serves as the sole external gateway for non-governmental organizations to provide vital aid to northeastern Syria. It plays a crucial role in facilitating the entry of food and medical supplies, the movement of travelers, and political delegations. However, on 20 May, the KRG, led by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), completely closed the crossing following long-standing unresolved disputes between Kurdish parties on both sides of the border, which have persisted for nearly a decade.