The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently released a report on Iraq’s internally displaced and the process of returns in January 2009. The IOM found that while the number of people going back to their homes is increasing, many have found them destroyed and the process of rebuilding difficult. At the same time the majority of Iraq’s internal refugees are still facing hardships, especially with housing, employment, access to services, and aid.
There are approximately 1.6 million internally displaced Iraqis. The number of those going back to their homes is growing, especially in Baghdad, which saw the most fighting and displacement during the sectarian war of 2006-2007. Some want to go back but lack the means. Many returnees have found their homes destroyed. The government has encouraged this process by offering 500,000 dinars, around $432 to families that go home to a different province, and 250,000 dinars to those that return with their own province. The offers were made from October to December 2008, but the IOM is not sure whether they will still be available in 2009. Not all refugees have received the money either. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also issued Order 101 that requires all squatters to vacate their current residences. The security forces have carried out some evictions, but they have been very limited. The squatters have been given between 24 hours to several days to leave, and some have received aid from Baghdad, while others have not.
The IOM reported families going home in Anbar, Baghdad, and Diyala, and departing from Karbala, Sulaymaniya, and Wasit. More than 170 families left Karbala to go back to Baghdad from November to December 2008, 14 families left Sulaymaniyah, and an unknown number departed from Wasit. Almost all the displaced families from the Al Tooaitha Al Gharbia village in Baghdad have come back. Many said they returned because of the improved security, and the government’s offer of money. Families from several different provinces have gone back to Anbar. Things have not gone well for all of these families. In the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad a returning family was hit by an IED. Locals have created their own security force in response. Many in the capital have found their homes destroyed, and there are over 400 families waiting for the government aid promised to them. In Diyala some families have been threatened after they went back.
The vast majority of Iraqi refugees have not returned, and are facing continued difficulties in the country. The IOM recorded several instances where families did not want to go back to their homes. In Diyala, Ninewa, and Wasit, Iraqis said they would not return. 13 families from Muqdadiya now living in the al-Kahlis district of Diyala, 25 families from Talafar who fled to Mosul, and several families in Wasit said their original neighborhoods lacked security. Salahaddin has ordered all displaced families from Diyala to leave because security is better there, but it has not been enforced. Finding adequate housing was another major issue. The IOM found 233 families living in mud huts in Babil, Tamim, Maysan, Muthanna, and Qadisiyah. Displaced in Basra, Karbala, Tamim, Maysan, Muthanna, Najaf were also facing evictions for squatting, while in Qadisiyah, four families were kicked out of the Afaq district. Najaf has the largest internal refugee camp in the country, but the provincial government wants it closed. They have offered $3,467 to leave, and around 70 families have taken up the offer. Lack of services was the other major issue amongst Iraq’s displaced. 163 families in Anbar, Babil, and Dohuk lack access to food or their government rations. 274 families in Babil, Karbala, and Dhi Qar lack water. Health care, sewage systems, schooling, and jobs are other problems the displaced face.
Overall, the International Organization for Migration noted that Iraqis are slowly and increasingly returning to their homes, but that this is only a small percentage, and their experiences are uneven. Most are going back to Baghdad, followed by Anbar and Diyala. Some families have been threatened and attacked in the process, but that appears to be a small number. The majority are still displaced however, facing a wide variety of difficulties. The government has also been uneven in applying its refugee policy. While it is important that some Iraqis have decided that it is safe enough to go back to their homes, the others still need assistance, which has been largely lacking. Baghdad also requires a real return policy, rather one that seems largely aimed at improving its image rather than actually helping people.
Statistics On Iraq’s Internally Displaced
Dhi Qar 0.1%
Shiite Arab 57.7%
Sunni Arab 30.7%
Sunni Kurd 3.7%
Assyrian Christian 2.8%
Chaldean Christian 1.7%
Shiite Turkomen 1.1%
Sunni Turkomen 0.9%
Shiite Kurd 0.6%
Armenian Christian 0.1%
Yazidi Arab 0.1%
Yazidi Kurd 0.1%
Access to property left behind:
Don’t know 38.7%
If don’t have access, main reason why:
Occupied by another family 35.4%
Used by military 2.5%
Occupied by government 0.5%
For more recent reports on Iraq’s displaced and refugees see:
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Dec. 08 Report on Iraq
International Organization for Migration’s Report On Displaced In Kurdistan
Human Rights First Report On What To Do About Iraq’s Refugees
International Organization for Migration Report on Internally Displaced In Tamim, Ninewa and Salahaddin
International Organization for Migration’s Year End Report On Displaced Iraqis In Anbar, Baghdad & Diyala Provinces
International Organization for Migration’s Numbers On Refugee Returns
United Nations Humanitarian Report On Iraq
Government Moves Against Squatters In Hurriyah, Baghdad
International Organization for Migration’s November Report on Iraq’s Displaced
Refugees International Report On What Needs To Be Done About Iraq’s Displaced
International Organization for Migration, “Summary of Current Iraqi Displacement and Return,” 1/1/09
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
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