Friday, December 7, 2018

Displaced Returns Turning Into A Trickle In Iraq

(IOM)
The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) latest report on the displaced (IDPs) showed that the number of returns has declined again. That follows continued polls of IDPs that have found fewer and fewer people have any interest in going back to their home areas.

The IOM counted 4,113,624 returns. Unsurprisingly, the majority of returns went to the five provinces that saw major fighting with the Islamic State. Ninewa had 1,591,734 returns, Anbar 1,283,292, Salahaddin 575,676, Kirkuk 313,788, and Diyala 222,342. The other provinces with returns were Baghdad at 84,252, Irbil at 41,760, and Dohuk with 780. There was a lot of displacement in the Baghdad belts during the war with IS, and the southern tip of Irbil was invaded by the militants when they attacked Kurdistan as well.

On the other hand, there were 1,866,648 IDPs. Ninewa had the most displaced residents with 585,520 followed by 347,232 in Dohuk, 213,402 in Irbil, 151,920 in Salahaddin, 150,876 in Sulaymaniya, and 113,688 in Kirkuk.

The major issue was that over the last two months only 53,808 people had gone home. That was an average of 26,904 returns per month. In August, 33,528 returned, and back in March 112,446 made the trip. At the end of 2017 over 200,000 were going back per month.

Many aid groups like IOM and the Iraqi government were hoping that when the war ended there would be a huge surge in people going home. Initially, it seemed like that would happen, but 2018 has only seen fewer and fewer returns. Aid groups are now talking about protracted displacement because 50% of IDPs have been displaced for three or more years and the longer people have been displaced the less likely they are to contemplate leaving where they currently are.

This is backed up recent surveys of IDPs. A November 2018 report found 64% of IDPs wanted to stay where they were versus only 11% that were thinking of returning. The reasons for this are multiple. People that were displaced early in the war went to Baghdad, southern Iraq and Kurdistan and have found new lives that they don’t want to go back. There is a large population that is banned from their homes because they are considered IS sympathizers. The conditions of the home areas is a bigger issue. There is a huge amount of damage with little rebuilding going on meaning there is no real reason to go home if there is no housing, jobs or services available. These are all pointing to Iraq quickly reaching the tipping point where returns basically end, and the displaced population becomes permanent. This occurred during the civil war when over one million people never went back.

Finally, the IOM found new displacement going on in Diyala, which is very worrying. 650 people left their homes in October. Diyala is the center of IS rebuilding. It is active in all the rural areas of the province. It is attacking the local security forces, mukhtars, assaulting towns, collecting taxes, and asserting its control. People fleeing just adds to this narrative of the insurgents’ renewed power in the governorate.

Displaced By Province
Province
March 31
May 31
July 31
Aug 31
Oct 31
Ninewa
665,910
620,628
602,490
598,578
584,520
Dohuk
354,432
350,232
349,782
349,776
347,232
Irbil
232,164
222,738
217,506
216,570
213,402
Salahaddin
205,182
184,854
169,518
163,812
151,920
Sulaymaniya
165,630
154,020
151,698
150,888
150,876
Kirkuk
146,202
133,770
124,668
120,798
113,688
Baghdad
128,064
107,832
90,852
85,080
75,048
Anbar
84,552
81,192
74,982
71,664
70,074
Diyala
78,054
64,674
62,448
62,172
62,298
Najaf
36,900
30,396
23,400
17,322
15,264
Karbala
34,680
27,018
23,280
23,004
22,722
Babil
27,978
25,794
22,818
20,496
19,662
Qadisiya
13,926
12,882
12,228
12,060
12,012
Wasit
13,680
13,164
12,042
12,132
12,018
Basra
8,496
8,046
8,082
7,968
7,872
Dhi Qar
4,476
4,098
4,086
4,080
4,038
Maysan
3,126
3,006
2,832
2,796
2,742
Muthanna
1,800
1,374
1,272
1,260
1,260
TOTAL
2,205,252
2,045,718
1,953,984
1,920,456
1,866,648

Total Number of Displaced Oct 2017-Oct 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)

SOURCES

International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix, DTM Round 106, October 2018,” 10/31/18

International Organization for Migration, Returns Working Group Iraq, Social Inquiry, “Reasons To Remain: Categorizing Protracted Displacement In Iraq,” November 2018

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