Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Number Of Iraqi Refugee Returns Slows Down In 2010

The latest report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) showed that the number of Iraqi refugees and displaced that are returning to their homes has slowed in 2010. In total, roughly 1.2 million Iraqis have come back so far, out of 1.9 million refugees and 2 million displaced.

Click on graph for larger view

In the first four months of 2010, returns have gone up and down, while never reaching the level of 2009. In January approximately 11,600 Iraqis came back, followed by 9,480 in February, 17,080 in March, and 8,730 in April, for a total of 46,890. That compared to 2009 when every month except for January had over 10,000 returns a month. In the last four months of that year for example, 12,020 went back in September, 18,850 in October, 16,080 in November, and 15,050 in December for a total of 62,000; 15,110 more than the next four months. Interviews conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed that many displaced Iraqis were holding off on going back to their homes because of the March 2010 parliamentary elections. They wanted to see how the voting and new government worked out before they made the decision to go back or not.

Refugee/Displaced Returns 2009-2010

Jan. 7,520
Feb. 18,780
Mar. 26,540
Apr. 14,910
May 15,330
Jun. 18,410
Jul. 20,330
Aug. 21,010
Sep. 12,020
Oct. 18,850
Nov. 16,080
Dec. 15,050
Jan. 11,600
Feb. 9,480
Mar. 17,090
Apr. 8,730

Overall the UNHCR believes that about 1,226,216 Iraqis have returned from 2003 to April 2010. They have not returned at a steady pace however. In 2003 around 55,429 came back, followed by 291,997 in 2004, the most since the U.S. invasion. After that returns went down to 154,155 in 2005, 170,235 in 2006, before dropping to 81,420 in 2007 because of the sectarian war. When the fighting decreased, returns went back up to 221,260 in 2008 and 204,830 in 2009. Roughly two-thirds of those that have made the trip were internally displaced rather than refugees, 779,960 compared to 443,256 respectively.

Total Returns 2003-April 2010
2003: 55,429
2004: 291,997
2005: 154,155
2006: 170,235
2007: 81,420
2008: 221,260
2009: 204,830
Jan.-Apr. 2010: 46,890
Total: 1,226,216

The UNHCR still does not think that it is time for mass returns to Iraq. Many have made the decision to go back because of the improved security situation, the bad conditions they presently find themselves in, as well as government incentives such as cash payments. More have not returned however, because of the continued attacks, the demographic changes in their neighborhoods that occurred during the sectarian war, their property being destroyed or occupied, lack of jobs and services, and political instability. Until those problems are overcome most of the Iraqis that fled their homes are likely to stay put, leaving one of the largest refugee populations in the world.


International Organization for Migration, “IOM Emergency Needs Assessments Four Years of Post-Samarra Displacement In Iraq," 4/13/10

UNHCR Iraq Operation, “Monthly Statistical Update on Return – April 2010,” May 2010
- “Monthly Statistical Update on Return – December 2009,” 1/27/10

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