Thursday, August 27, 2009

Latest Return Statistics For Iraqi Refugees/Displaced

The latest report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the number of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced that have returned is now available. Like the last report, 2009 has continued to see a number of Iraqis come back, but varying by month. In June, 2009 14,750 displaced and 3,490 refugees for a total of 18,410 Iraqis made the trip back. That compared to a total of 15,330 in May. March saw the largest number of returns this year with 26,540. Since 2005 displaced returns, 61% of the total, have far outweighed the refugees coming back, 39%. In the first six months of 2009 roughly 101,490 Iraqis have returned. That would put this year roughly on track to match last year's total of 221,260. 2004 has seen the most returns since the U.S. invasion with 291,997 making the trip. That year 193,997 were refugees coming back to see the new Iraq. In total, the UNHCR estimates that approximately 3,195,899 lost their homes, and about 1,075,986, 33.6%, have returned so far. The number of displaced and the percent that have returned is definitely incomplete because the UNHCR counts no refugees before 2006 when there were tens of thousands of them under Saddam.

Total displaced

Time

Displaced

Refugees

Total

Pre-2006

1,212,108


1,212,108

After 2006

1,695,899

1,500,000

3,195,899

Number of Returns 2003-June 2009

Time

Displaced

Refugees

Total

2003

0

55,429

55,429

2004

98,000

193,997

291,997

2005

98,000

56,155

154,155

2006

150,000

20.235

170,235

2008

195,890

25,370

221,260

Jan. 09

6,390

1,130

7,520

Feb. 09

15,810

2,970

18,780

Mar. 09

20,690

4,860

26,540

Apr. 09

11,020

3,890

14,910

May 09

10,540

2,990

15,330

Jun. 09

14,750

3,490

18,410

2009

79,200

18,970

101,490

Total

657,090

183,727

1,075,986


61%

39%

100%

The vast majority of Iraqis are going back to six of Iraq's eighteen provinces, Baghdad, Diyala, Najaf, Karbala, and Babil. Baghdad has been at the center of the fighting since the U.S. invasion, so it should be no surprise then that the capital has seen the most displaced, and the most returns. 54% of the displaced and 52% of refugees have gone back to that province. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the premier aid group working with Iraq's displaced, has extensively surveyed this community and found that 26.6% were forced from their property in Baghdad, 20.6% did so because of the fighting, 20.1% because of direct threats to their life, 15.8% fled the general violence, and 15.7% left out of fear. Those figures are signs of the death and destruction that were wrought in the capital, especially after the 2006 Amarra bombing when the Shiites began ethnically cleansing Sunnis. Overall, the major reason why the displaced have come back is the improved security according to the IOM, followed by a mix of better security and difficulties in their current locals. Those are probably the same reasons for refugees, although far fewer of them, 12.2% of the total, have come back so far.

Returns by Province Jan.-June 2009

Sulaymaniya

140

0%

Muthanna

180

0%

Irbil

190

0%

Salahaddin

440

0%

Dhi Qar

440

0%

Dohuk

510

1%

Qadisiyah

510

1%

Maysan

510

1%

Anbar

520

1%

Tamim

740

1%

Basra

1,250

1%

Wasit

1,130

1%

Karbala

1,350

1%

Babil

1,680

2%

Najaf

2,170

2%

Ninewa

2,920

3%

Diyala

31,770

31%

Baghdad

55,040

54%

TOTAL

101,490

100%

Refugee Returns by Province Jan.-June 2009

Ninewa

20

0%

Anbar

60

0%

Sulaymaniya

140

1%

Irbil

160

1%

Salahaddin

160

1%

Muthanna

180

1%

Dhi Qar

430

2%

Maysan

440

2%

Wasit

450

2%

Dohuk

510

2%

Qadisiyah

510

2%

Basra

680

3%

Tamim

690

3%

Babil

1,030

5%

Karbala

1,320

6%

Diyala

1,660

7%

Najaf

2,170

10%

Baghdad

11,680

52%

TOTAL

22,290

100%

Displaced Returns by Province Jan.-June 2009

Dohuk

0

0%

Qadisiyah

0

0%

Muthanna

0

0%

Najaf

0

0%

Sulaymaniya

0

0%

Dhi Qar

10

0%

Irbil

30

0%

Karbala

30

0%

Tamim

50

0%

Maysan

70

0%

Salahaddin

280

0%

Anbar

460

1%

Basra

570

1%

Babil

650

1%

Wasit

680

1%

Ninewa

2,900

4%

Diyala

30,110

38%

Baghdad

43,360

55%

TOTAL

79,200

100%

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is still encouraging the return of Iraq's displaced. The UNHCR does not think it's time, and the latest Pentagon report to Congress on Iraq said Baghdad has no serious plan to assist the process. The new plan is to try to get them to come back to violent areas in Abu Ghraib outside of Baghdad and Diyala. The authorities have plans to move in 3,000 mostly Shiite families into Abu Ghraib, and to begin evictions of squatters in Diyala. The governor of that province also hopes that families will come back, and has set up six committees in various regions of Diyala to look into damages and pay compensation to returning families. The displaced are worried about insurgent attacks.

Baghdad is trying to close the refugee file this year in an attempt to improve the image of the country, and to help Maliki in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Already, in February 2009 the Ministry of Displacement and Migration ordered a stop to registering new displaced claiming that most families have gone back to their homes. This is an important development because not only is the claim not true, but no Iraqis can receive government aid without registering. The authorities have also promised rewards for those that go back to Baghdad, but very few have received any payments.

The process of return has begun, but the majority of Iraq's refugees are still without their homes. The displaced are coming back in much larger numbers than refugees, mostly because of the improved security situation in the country. The major concern is what they will find when they come home. The government has promised help, but it has not come through in many cases. Prime Minister Maliki seems more concerned about the reports on returns to improve his standing, than actually bettering conditions for when families come back. International organizations have only been able to assist a small fraction of this community, which means many are likely to have to fend for themselves whether they decide to go back or stay where they are.

SOURCES


Abdullah, Muhammed, “displaced fear new al-qaeda violence,” Niqash, 6/24/09

Alsumaria, “UNHCR: Iraq not prepared for refugees return,” 6/3/09

Dagher, Sam, “Iraq’s Government Orders Barriers Removed,” New York Times, 8/6/09

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” June 2009

International Organization for Migration, “Baghdad Governorate Profile July 2009 IOM IDP and Returnee Assessment,” July 2009
- “IOM Monitoring And Needs Assessments Assessment of Iraqi Return, May 2009,” May 2009

Reilly, Corinne, “Prospects are dismal for returning Iraqi refugees,” McClatchy Nespapers, 5/22/09

UNHCR, “Monthly Statistical Update on Return – June 2009,” 8/3/09

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