(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Government cracks down on squatters

[Iraq] Iraq refugees who have returned home are living in old government buildings.

The Iraqi government is cracking down on squatters occupying properties belonging to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees as the one-month grace period expired at the end of August, a government spokesman said.

[Read this report in Arabic]

“Our security forces, in cooperation with local officials in Baghdad neighbourhoods, have begun implementing the government decision to check on these houses and force those who illegally occupy them out,” Brig Gen Qassim al-Mousawi said.

“If these families fail to produce legal papers showing they are occupying the house according to an agreement with the owner they will face legal action,” al-Mousawi told IRIN.

The government has not yet released any data of how many houses belonging to displaced families have been cleared of squatters.

But on 3 September, the Migration and Displacement Ministry released its first report on the number of illegally occupied houses - 3,491 in nine provinces. These properties included houses, flats, land and other buildings.

Baghdad had the highest number of squatter-occupied properties at 2,369, followed by Diyala with 963 and Anbar with 63. The rest were in the provinces of Salaheddin, Ta’mim, Babil, Kut, Nineveh and Muthana.

On 20 July, the Iraqi government announced measures to encourage the more than four million IDPs and refugees to return to their homes, including a one-month grace period for squatters to vacate properties.

The measures also included a one-off payment of 1.8 million Iraqi dinars (about US$1,500) to squatters to help them rent other properties.

In addition, it was stipulated that IDPs willing to return to their houses would be paid one million dinars ($840). Each internally displaced family that has not yet returned home qualifies for a monthly payment of 150,000 dinars ($145) for three months while still displaced.

Other measures include helping Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries with free air transport if they choose to return home, the free shipment of their belongings and compensation for damaged property.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 4.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Of these, about 2.2 million are living as refugees in neighbouring countries – mostly in Syria and Jordan - while the remainders are IDPs.


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