The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that the political instability in Iraq was slowing down the rate of refugee returns. The United Nations held a press conference in Baghdad at the end of September 2010 where officials said that the lack of a new government after the March parliamentary elections has led to a decline in the number of Iraqis coming back from other countries. They claimed that 45% of refugees interviewed in Syria and Jordan said that they did not want to come back because of the political situation in Iraq. 15% said they would not return because of the security situation, and 40% mentioned the lack of services.
The latest UNHCR report on Iraq showed this slowdown. In the five months leading up to the elections from November 2009 to March 2010 approximately 69,290 Iraqis returned. 11,970 were refugees, and the remaining 57,320 were internally displaced. That averaged out to 13,858 Iraqis coming back per month. For the five months after the election from April to August 51,540 people came back. 10,810 were refugees and 40,730 were displaced. That was an average of 10,380 per month. The difference between the two periods was largely due to a drop in the number of displaced willing to make the trip home.
As reported before, the number of Iraqis returning has gone up and down since 2003. 2004 saw the largest amount at 291,997. Then as the civil war took off there was a drop to 81,420 in 2007. When security improved returns increased to 221,260 in 2008, but then went steadily down to 204,830 in 2009, and 89,700 from January to August 2010. At the current pace, only around 150,000 refugees and displaced would likely come back this year. Whether that amount will go up again in 2011 with a new government is yet to be seen.
Refugee/Displaced Returns November 2009-August 2010
Nov. 09 – Mar. 10 69,290
Avg. 13,858 per month
Apr. – Aug. 10 51,540
Avg. 10,380 per month
Rao, Prashant, “Lack of Iraq govt hurting security and refugee returns,” Agence France Pressure, 9/29/10
UNHCR Iraq Operation, “Monthly Statistical Update on Return – August 2010,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, September 2010