The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the main aid group working with refugees in Iraq reported that displacement continues in the country surpassing the 3.2 million mark. Fighting in places like Anbar, Kirkuk and Salahaddin has continued to force people to flee their homes. At the same time, many people are attempting to return, but often find their communities destroyed, and there is limited aid for them.
By the end of September 2015 the International Organization for Migration continued to report people leaving their homes due to the on going conflict. The group counted 3,206,736 displaced or 543,456 families from January 1 to September 29, 2015. 87% of those people came from just three provinces, Anbar with 1,334,592 displaced, Ninewa with 1,011,606, and Salahaddin with 407,142. From the end of August to the end of September the IOM recorded another 22,368 people being displaced from Anbar, Ninewa and Kirkuk. In October the United Nations noted more people fleeing from Anbar and Salahaddin as well, although it did not have any numbers available.
Almost 90% of these internal refugees now reside in eight of Iraq’s sixteen provinces. 583,000 are in Anbar, 577,600 in Baghdad, 426,900 in Dohuk, 401,300 in Kirkuk, 284,300 in Irbil, 203,700 in Ninewa, 161,700 in Sulaymaniya, and 156,100 in Salahaddin. Movement to some of these governorates has not been easy. The U.N. for example noted that during the middle of October the main bridge from Anbar to Baghdad was blocked for several days, which has happened in the past. That has led to a new camp being opened in Amiriya Fallujah in eastern Anbar to house these people. The Kurdistan Regional Government has also blocked some people from seeking refuge there.
Most of the displaced live in private homes or hotels, but there is a large number who are in very poor conditions. The U.N. reported that 69% of the displaced live in private housing, but 20%, 622,002 people are in what it terms critical shelters. This includes squatting and make shift, unofficial camps.
Aid for the displaced has been limited. The Iraqi government and United Nations came up with a $498 million program for internal refugees, but only 41% of that has been funded so far. The authorities have been accused of stealing money aimed at the displaced in various corruption schemes as well. The international community has not adequately responded to Iraq’s calls for help, and endemic graft has limited what the government has to offer.
The number of internal refugees has continued to climb despite over 400,000 people returning to their home areas. Most of those, 218,928 have gone back to Salahaddin, especially the Tikrit district with 155,694 returns. In September alone, 43,794 people went back. From October 13-17, the U.N. had another 10,500 returning to Salahaddin and 13,000 to Diyala. Unfortunately many of these people find their homes destroyed. In Kirkuk for example, the peshmerga launched a new operation to clear the Daquq district in the south. The fighting led to 800-1,000 homes being destroyed in the process according to the U.N. That increases the need for aid, which the government and international organizations have been unable to provide.
The war against the Islamic State is going to be a long one, which means more people will lose their homes in the coming months. The process is not static however as many people are attempting to go back to their homes, while others are being driven out of them. The biggest problem is that official corruption is preventing the government from helping these people and the international community has not provided the funds to private aid groups to pick up the slack. That leaves a huge population of vulnerable people in the country. It’s also important to remember that after the last civil war from 2005-2008 over one million Iraqis were displaced and never returned, having to settle into new areas for one reason or another. The same thing is likely to occur this time creating another demographic change within the country.
Displaced Within Each Province
Dhi Qar 9,500
Returns By Province
Arango, Tim, “Sunnis Fleeing ISIS Find Few Doors Opened Elsewhere in Iraq,” New York Times, 5/27/15
International Organization for Migration, “Displacement in Iraq Exceeds 3.2 Million: IOM,” 10/16/15
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Iraq: Humanitarian Bulletin 1-15 October 2015,” 10/20/15
Wolf, Mat, “No-man’s land: the Iraqis trapped between IS and the Kurds,” IRIN, 2/12/15