When Mosul was freed in July 2017 the number of displaced (IDP) families heading back to the city started going up. The eastern half of the city had been freed months before, and was relatively safe and largely untouched by the fighting. Many people from west Mosul also went directly from the combat zones into the east. Islamic State sleeper cells were still active and carried out some large bombings scaring some away, but there were more that wanted to leave displacement camps, be close to their property, and find housing and jobs in the city. In August however, the trend has reversed and now there are more people leaving then returning, largely due to the economic situation.
At the start of August 2017, there were still more people leaving IDP camps than arriving. From August 2-3 for example, 172 families arrived from Mosul versus 420 that left. The motivations for this movement would remain constants even when the numbers reversed. First, many families had tried renting a house or staying with relatives in the city, but the rents were too high, they couldn’t find a job, and ran out of money forcing them out. On the other hand, people in camps wanted to be close to their property, and were facing high summer heats with no air conditioning, and were seeking employment in the city.
In the following weeks, the pattern would reverse with more people flowing out of Mosul. From August 4-8, 809 families arrived at camps, while 532 left. August 9-10, things changed with 188 families coming into camps, and 265 leaving. Then 515 families departed Mosul, and 300 went back from August 11-15. Finally, at the end of August the United Nations reported that more people entered camps, mostly coming from west Mosul for the last three weeks of the month. 95% said they couldn’t afford housing or there were no jobs.
Mosul is a mixed bag. There are parts of the east that look completely rebuilt with shops, markets, schools, and services. There are others where there is still rebuilding going on, and then much of the west, which is just getting back on its feet or is still in rubble. A major problem is that the government is the main employer and only some public workers are back, and many are not getting paid. Small businesses employ some, but hardly enough. That leaves foreign funded reconstruction projects as another alternative. That has led most people to live off their savings, borrowing from friends, and buying on credit. For an increasing number this situation is untenable and they are leaving Mosul for the second time. Until the economy is revived this will likely continue. Unfortunately, Baghdad has no funds nor plans for that, and is relying upon aid groups and donations for the time being.
International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking Mosul Operations Data Snapshot: 05 Sept 2017,” 9/5/17
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 6 August 2017,” 8/6/17
- “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 10 August 2017,” 8/10/17
- “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 14 August 2017,” 8/14/17
- “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 17 August 2017” 8/17/17
- “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 31 August 2017” 8/31/17