Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Number Of Displaced Returning In Iraq Takes Another Large Drop


The latest report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Iraq’s displaced noted two worrying trends. First, the number of returns has dramatically dropped during the third quarter of 2019. Second, for the first time since the war ended there was an increase in displacement in a few provinces. Initially, NGOs and the Iraqi government hoped that when the conflict with the Islamic State was over there would be a dramatic increase in the flow of people going home. That seemed like it might come true, but by 2019 it appears that around one million people might be permanently displaced.

The number of displaced (IDPs) continued to decline, but at an ever decreasing pace. By September there were 1,552,914 displaced versus 1,607,148 in June. In that three month span 54,234 people went back to their homes for a grand total of 4,350,150 returns. The problem is that the rate of return has steadily gone down. From May to June an average of 28,980 IDPs travelled back to their home areas per month versus 18,078 per month from July to September. Even more pronounced during 2018 there was an average of 67,763 returns per month versus 27,768 per month in 2019.

There are various reasons for this trend. First, people that fled their homes at the start of the war and were still IDPs now are less like to go back. That’s because they have probably settled in their new areas with acommocations and jobs, and don’t have the same motivation to leave anymore. That’s especially true in southern Iraq where very few people are leaving. Second, many postwar areas still have extensive war damage and dangers. West Mosul for example is still largely in rubble. Southern Sinjar district has IEDs, which makes it unsafe. There are also a lack of jobs and services, which are added deterrents. The government has no reconstruction plan either. In 2018, only 0.5% of its spending went to rebuilding. Third, there is a large population that has been labelled Islamic State families or sympathizers who have been blocked from going home. Again, Baghdad has no strategy to deal with this issue. Last, a number of people went back to their original districts, found the situation inhospitable and became displaced a second time. The IOM found that the number of IDPs in Irbil went up by 7,710 and 612 in Sulaymaniya from April to September as a result. This is the first time since the war with IS that there has been an increase in displaced in provinces.

A special note needs to be made about Babil where the number of IDPs has not changed for months. Currently there are 17,454 IDPs registered with the government. That’s because the Jurf al-Sakhr district in the northeast was completely emptied of people by the Hashd and not been allowed back. The same happened in neighboring Musayib. These two areas lay along the major routes Shiite pilgrims take from northern and central Iraq to Karbala and Najaf, and were therefore considered strategic locations. The government shows no sign of changing this policy so those two areas will remain empty of civilians for the foreseeable future.

This is the second time since 2003 that Iraq is facing a displacement crisis, and both look to be ending on the same note. After the civil war over one million people remained permanently displaced, and the same thing looks to be happening today. Both times, the government’s lack of will meant this problem was never resolved.

Total Number of Displaced Oct 2017-Dec 2018
Month
Total Displaced
Difference
October 2017
3,174,678

November 2017
2,883,738
-290,940
December 2017
2,615,988
-267,750
February 2018
2,317,698
-298,290
(2 months)
March 2018
2,205,252
-112,446
May 2018
2,045,718
-159,534
(2 months)
Jul 2018
1,953,984
-91,734
(2 months)
August 2018
1,920,456
-33,528
October 2018
1,866,648
-53,808
(2 months)
December 2018
1,802,832
-63,816
(2 months)
February 2019
1,744,980
-57,852
(2 months)
April 2019
1,665,108
-79,872
(2 months)
June 2019
1,607,148
-57,960
(2 months)
September 2019
1,552,914
-54,234
(3 months)

Avg 67,763 returns per month 2018

Avg 27,768 returns per month 2019

Main Provinces With Returns
Province
Sep 2019
Ninewa
1,696,386
Anbar
1,317,174
Salahaddin
646,860
Kirkuk
333,120
Diyala
225,828
Baghdad
88,782
Irbil
41,220

Displaced By Province
Province
Apr 2019
Sep 2019
Difference
Ninewa
478,638
453,168
-25,470
Dohuk
326,106
323,148
-2,958
Irbil
209,784
217,494
+7,710
Sulaymaniya
142,422
143,034
+612
Salahaddin
105,390
96,306
-9,084
Kirkuk
101,556
99,708
-1,848
Baghdad
58,710
50,550
-8,160
Diyala
55,722
54,576
-1,146
Anbar
49,086
39,270
-9,816
Karbala
21,744
20,880
-864
Babil
17,454
17,454
Unchanged
Najaf
12,282
10,992
-1,290
Wasit
8,538
7,950
-588
Basra
7,164
6,966
-198
Qadisiya
5,592
4,494
-1,098
Dhi Qar
3,474
3,480
+6
Maysan
2,388
2,352
-36
Muthanna
1,098
1,092
-6

SOURCES

International Organization for Migration, “Iraq: Displacement Tracking Matrix DTM Round 111 – September 2019,” 9/30/19

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