Iraq is facing another huge refugee crisis. This started when fighting broke out in Anbar at the end of December 2013 and has only gotten worse since then. Many of the major urban centers in Anbar, Ninewa, and Salahaddin such as Fallujah, Mosul, and Tikrit have seen mass displacement, as well as smaller towns like Hit, which recently fell to the Islamic State. There are now an estimated 1.8 million internal refugees. The Iraqi government has promised aid to these people through the Migration and Displacement Ministry as well as a special committee run by Deputy Premier Salah al-Mutlaq. Both of these organizations have been charged with corruption stealing the money meant for people who have lost their homes, and even extorting funds from them. This is another sad chapter in the dysfunction of the Iraqi state.
Various reports have come out that the Migration Ministry and displaced committee are ripe with corruption. On October 1, 2014 the displacement committee in Iraq’s parliament charged the special committee on displacement headed by Deputy Prime Minister Salah al-Mutlaq with blackmailing people. The parliamentary committee said that it was launching an investigation into it. It later reported that Mutlaq’s committee was not providing aid or services and was stealing money. An article by IRIN accused the Migration Ministry of being duplicitous as well. It said that internal refugee families had to pay bribes to officials to receive assistance. It also found evidence that ministry officers were filing fake papers claiming that they were displaced so that they could collect money. Internal refugee families are supposed to get $850 from the ministry to help pay for food and shelter. These are common practices throughout the Iraqi bureaucracy, which is regularly ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world. All too often Iraqi civil servants seek out their own cut of government programs. This ranges from the lowest public employees all the way up to director generals and even ministers themselves. The problem is systemic throughout the government.
Thousands of displaced families and local officials have complained that Baghdad is not providing assistance to the new wave of refugees caused by the insurgency. In the face of this crisis bureaucrats have responded by conducting business as usual siphoning off funds in any number of ways. The displacement of almost two million people has simply offered them more opportunities to steal money that is desperately needed for others who have lost their homes and are now residing in refugee camps, with family or friends or are squatting in abandoned buildings. The situation is only supposed to get worse as winter arrives, yet Baghdad is proving incapable of helping those in need.
Al Forat, “Parliamentary committee: Corruption within committee assigned to distribute financial grant among displaced people,” 10/1/14
IRIN, “Corruption disrupts government aid to Iraq’s displaced,” 10/22/14
- “Without fuel subsidies, aid to displaced Iraqis in jeopardy,” 10/24/14
Al Rafidayn, “Parliamentary Integrity Committee: Financial corruption within displaced commission,” 10/28/14