Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Iraq Trying To End Displacement Crisis By Expelling People From Camps

(Human Rights Watch)

The Iraqi government said that it wants to resolve the displaced (IDP) problem this year. Early signs show that means expelling people from camps whether they want to go or not. Human Rights Watch and Al Mada reported that this started in Ninewa province.

In July 2019, the National Security Council passed a resolution ordering people out of IDP camps in Ninewa. That began in August when the Migration and Displacement Ministry informed aid workers in two camps in the province that they were going to expel people who were not locals starting with people from Anbar. That began on August 23 when the Iraqi forces kicked out 36 families, roughly 150 people total. None wanted to leave, and one family from Ramadi said that they were threatened with death because they were associated with the Islamic State when they went back. Another 16 families were living in a school in Haditha protected by police because they felt unsafe. That proved true when a grenade was thrown at the school. Another six families were denied entry to their home areas because they were called IS sympathizers. This initial expulsion led to a wave of families leaving the camp because they did not want to be expelled. Surveys of IDPs have shown that one of the main reasons they do not want to go back to their homes is fear that they will be singled out and attacked for their ties to the Islamic State. These experiences show that this is a real fear.

At the end of August, this policy went into its second phase. First, the 16th Division in Ninewa ordered that two camps stop people from leaving. Then the Iraqi forces kicked out around 610 people who were from Hawija in southern Kirkuk, followed by 671 from Salahaddin, and another 481 IDPs at the start of September. The Ninewa council also ordered all IS families in camps south of Mosul be expelled. Two families told Human Rights Watch that when they arrived in Salahaddin someone threw a grenade at the IDP camp they moved into. The deputy governor of Salahaddin also said he wanted to close all the camps there by September. His comment highlights that it is not just the central government that wants to be done with the IDPs but local officials as well.

The number of displaced returning to their home areas has dramatically slowed in the last several months. Opinion polls show that IDPs are reluctant to go back due to the lack of security, jobs, services, rebuilding and fears that they will be persecuted for their affiliation with the Islamic State. The government doesn’t seem concerned about this. Its solution is to simply kick people out of IDP camps, so that they can be closed down, and then claim success despite the continued suffering of people. Image is more important than actually taking care of citizens, a bad trait that has been a characteristic of Baghdad for years.

SOURCES

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Camps Expel Over 2,000 People Seen As ISIS-Linked,” 9/4/19

Al Mada, “Ninewa forces 30,000 ISIS families to leave: some to Kirkuk and others to protect nomads in the desert,” 9/14/19


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