Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in southern Iraq are concerned about the fate of newly arriving internally displaced persons (IDPs), after the authorities in the southern provinces said they could not cope with any more of them.
The NGOs include South Peace Organisation, Keeping Children Alive and the Women’s Rights Association.
“Officials in the southern governorates have told us they cannot take in more IDPs as their security cannot be guaranteed,” said Mayada Obeid, a spokesperson for South Peace Organisation, based in Basra.
“Police in Najaf and Basra have told us they have reported cases of new IDPs being targeted by militias, and at least seven people have been killed trying to settle in displacement camps,” said Obeid.
A senior official in Basra Governing Council, Hassan Abdul-Kareem, told IRIN: “We can no longer ignore the lack of essential supplies in our governorate. Previously displaced families are demanding our assistance and we cannot satisfy even their needs. There are no places for their children in schools, we cannot give them medical care and the price of goods is high.”
“We understand that the situation is critical for families fleeing their homes but we cannot be the only ones to help all those displaced people. The only way to prevent the situation from deteriorating further is to ban IDP camps from accepting any more displaced people,” he said.
Ali Barak, a media spokesman for Basra Governing Council, told IRIN the situation was getting out of control. Barak suggested that other parts of the country like Kurdistan should open their doors to the displaced.
“Every Shia family… is heading only for Najaf, Kerbala and Basra [all in the south].”
Barak said the southern provinces would only be able to open their doors to more displaced families if central government provided more funds.
IDPs at camps in the southern provinces are also against new IDPs coming to the camps. They say the assistance being given is insufficient even for those already in the camps.
Forced to return
Families who have been forced to return to their places of origin said they were scared they might be killed. Others are living in abandoned buildings on the way to the southern governorates.
|In Baghdad we were forced to flee after being threatened by extremists, and when we reached Basra we were treated like animals and forced to run away. The government has to… force the authorities in the southern provinces to accept us before we get killed.|
“We live like animals searching for a master who can offer us food and water,” said Khalid Fawwaz, 42, a father of five who was forced to return to his home in Baghdad after seeking refuge in Basra.
“In Baghdad we were forced to flee after being threatened by extremists, and when we reached Basra we were treated like animals and forced to run away,” Fawwaz said. “The government has to… force the authorities in the southern provinces to accept us before we get killed.”
According to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, 142,260 families - about 1,037,615 individuals - have become IDPs since 22 February 2006, when a revered Shia shrine in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, was bombed by what many believe was a Sunni extremist group.