In January 2011, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement announced that it had formulated a master plan to deal with Iraq’s displaced and refugees in one year. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) praised the idea, saying that it hoped that it would be the beginning of the end of Iraq’s refugee problem. By February however, when details of the 2011 budget were published, the Ministry had to reverse course saying that it would not be receiving enough money to fully implement its program.
In February, the Deputy Minister of Migration and Displacement told the press that the 2011 budget would not provide enough money to complete its plans to deal with the country’s displaced and refugees. The Deputy Minister said that his agency needed $416-$500 million this fiscal year, but it would only be getting $250 million.
Just the month before, the same official laid out the Ministry’s plans. He stated that the government was going to solve the refugee issue within a year. The plan would include three options for the displaced. One would be to return them to their homes, another was to have them integrate into the communities they currently reside in, and the third was to relocate others to another area. The Ministry was coordinating these actions with the UNHCR. In order to implement the program, the government would secure areas where the displaced wanted to go back to, provide short-term loans for housing, give them back their old jobs, and provide services. The Ministry already created Return Assistance Centers in Baghdad, which has the largest refugee and displaced population. These facilities offer $850 for six-months for returnees to rent a new place. The government also renewed its efforts to try to get refugees to come back, by offering Iraqis in Egypt and Yemen free plane rides home, and $250 each. Because the Ministry is only getting half of what it expected, it will only be able to implement a fraction of what it wanted to do this year.
The plan might have been too ambitious to begin with. A former Minister of Migration and Displacement told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the Ministry’s plans were not coordinated with other ministries. Areas where refugees and displaced want to go back to are supposed to be secured by the Iraqi security forces for example, but this has not been discussed with the Interior Ministry. The Ministry of Migration’s program would also involve working with several other government agencies to provide housing and services, but this too has not been worked out. The problem with the Iraqi government is that the ministries are divided between the various political blocs in the ruling coalition, with many run like personal fiefs of their ministers. There is little to no dialogue between them as a result. Without an integrated plan, refugees and the displaced cannot be dealt with, and this was true even before the 2011 budget was announced.
Healy, Jack and Schmidt, Michael, “Iraq Tells Refugees in Egypt and Yemen: We’ll Pay You to Return,” New York Times, 2/10/11
IRIN, “IRAQ: Funding shortfall hits plans for IDPs, returnees,” 2/28/11
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iraq Drafts Plan To Help IDPs, Refugees,” 1/26/11