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dubliner DESCRIBeS THE FEAR OF MILITANTS

Dubliner William Holden has put contingency plans in place for an emergency evacuation from Iraq if it becomes necessary.

The 44-year-old from Clondalkin has a packed bag at the ready, travel documents, a fully-charged phone and cash, just in case he is forced to leave with a moment's notice.

In the meantime, William is continuing the vital work he has been doing for the past five months as head of logistics and procurement with the Danish Refugee Council in the country.

The dad-of-two (right) is based in Iraq's third-largest city, Erbil - the capital of Kurdistan - a city of 1.5m people, which has become a refuge for countless members of religious minorities fleeing Islamic State militants.

CHRISTIANS

He has a key role in distributing aid to the refugees who are arriving in their tens of thousands.

Describing conditions on the ground, William said that around 15,000 Christians arrived into Erbil last Wednesday night - all had left their towns within minutes as the militants, known locally as the 'Daash' came looking for them at 2am.

"Every church is full, every park, even partially-built houses and offices are now occupied," he said

William said that the temperatures are "mid-40s every day".

"The Christian quarter where I live, Ainkawa, is practically closed off to ensure no 'sleeper cells' enter and terrorise the population," he said.

Meanwhile, he said that he spent three days in the city of Duhok last week "preparing for emergency food parcels to be distributed to 500 families who escaped from Zumar to near Duhok. They are staying in a transit camp for now".

"The roads are quiet and many people have left Duhok due to the fear of the Daash," he said.

William said that many of the towns that he and other workers transit through are in what's known as the 'disputed zone'. That is where ISIS militants have made a run for cover in recent days.

support

"We still had to drive through part of this area in order to return to Erbil. The road was empty for obvious reasons and some burned out cars could be seen, but it was quiet when we were driving through," he said.

"I am assessing the gaps in the support, and training where possible," said William, who works with the Irish Emergency Logistics Team, an organisation providing humanitarian emergency logistics assistance to the Danish Refugee Council.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs here has "advised against all travel to Iraq because of the extremely dangerous security situation".

A spokesperson said that one request for consular assistance had been received over the weekend regarding an Irish citizen in Iraq.

fdillon@herald.ie


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