herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

I'm just back from war-torn Iraq and I can't wait to return, says refugee worker William

William Holden
William Holden
William Holden (left) and his brother Duane

YOU couldn't pay most people to go to war-torn Iraq, but Dubliner William Holden will be returning there next week.

The 44-year-old Clondalkin man is head of logistics and procurement with the Danish Refugee Council and is home for a short break.

At the moment, his team is helping desperate refugees who have made the long journey from the besieged Syrian town of Kobane.

"Women and children are arriving from Kobane right now," William said.

families

"Core relief items are being distributed to families arriving at our refugee camps.

"There are two specific camps in Kurdistan that the Danish Refugee Council are managing

"The refugees have been redirected towards Kurdistan from northern Syria and southern Turkey.

"It's a couple of hundred miles they will have travelled."

The refugees began arriving in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil last Thursday and members of William's team travelled out to put up tents in a thunderstorm at the camp.

"The reasons they are coming into Kurdistan is that it has the refugee camps already set up from the Syrian refugees from last year. I got home last Friday. It's not your normal run-of-the-mill job," said William, who has also worked in South Sudan and Afghanistan.

William first went to Iraq in March. He has more than 100 people working for him, with the numbers set to double.

On any fears for his safety in a war zone, he said: "We make sure that the security protocols are in place and it's very strict.

"There's a reason why I'm good over there. I don't over-dramatise the situation, but you don't take it lightly - you take it very seriously.

"When going out, you would have to let everybody know where you're going. You have to go in groups if you don't know where you're going. I know exactly where I'm going.

"If you have to leave Erbil, you have to fill a travel clearance request form. You make sure everything is charged up, and you vary your route. You're hyper-aware. You check everything. You do lots of training."

William is the eldest of eight, and has two children, Evan (17) and Lucy (16).

project

He said he will be going back to Iraq on November 6, and will be home again near the end of January after another 12-week stint. However, he does have another project in the pipeline.

He set up the Irish Emergency Logistics Team with his brother Duane (46), who is based in Dublin, to provide services for charities going to war zones.

"We can deploy teams either before them or after them to help with the operations," said Duane.

They have also put together a training pack for non-governmental organisation workers going to dangerous countries.

fdillon@herald.ie

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