Marking World Refugee Day on 20 June, Iraqi non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies working in Iraq appealed for support for Iraqi refugees and called for assistance in creating the right conditions for voluntary, dignified and sustainable returns.
“On behalf of all Iraqi NGOs, we call upon the UN and all international organizations to offer protection and facilitate resettlement of all Iraqi refugees who are affected by violence and to help increase the number of those who are accepted in secure [third] countries,” said Basil Abdul-Wahab al-Azawi, head of the Baghdad-based Commission of Society Enterprises, an umbrella group of more than 1,000 NGOs inside and outside Iraq.
Al-Azawi described developed countries’ response to resettlement requests by Iraqi refugees as “limited and only low numbers [of refugees] were accepted, especially in Europe and Canada”.
He also said that security in Iraq was still not good and public services dilapidated.
“As their country is still occupied and witnesses different disputes, protection should be offered to them [Iraqi refugees]… Any return against their will is not acceptable,” he told IRIN on 20 June.
|World Refugee Day|
|UNHCR Iraq country profile|
|IRIN's Iraq reports|
|Iraq displacement map (April 2008)|
Ongoing support appeals
In a statement issued jointly with other international organizations, the UN appealed for financial support from donors to ensure access to essential services for vulnerable displaced communities and their hosts.
"Ongoing support is needed for the protection, return and reintegration of Iraq’s internally displaced and refugees," said the statement.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are almost 2 million Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries, mostly in Syria (1.2 to 1.4 million) and Jordan (500,000 to 600,000), but also in Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and the Gulf states.
The situation of Iraqi refugees throughout the region continues to deteriorate, as most of them do not have the right to work struggle to be employed in informal job markets. Their needs are increasing as their savings have been depleted by prolonged displacement and hikes in the prices of basic commodities in host countries, UNHCR said.
Support for internally displaced
Meanwhile, IOM estimates that there are about 2.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq, of whom 1.6 million were displaced since the February 2006 bombing of a Shia shrine north of Baghdad that triggered sectarian violence.
Some improvement in the security situation in parts of Iraq since last year has helped some of the displaced return. Of those who have returned, 40 percent came back to partially or completely destroyed homes, 17 percent had regular access to safe drinking water, 59 percent could not afford fuel and 35 percent were unemployed, according to IOM.
“Many internally displaced and returnees in Iraq do not have access to adequate shelter, safe water, and health care,” Daniel Endres, head of the UNHCR mission in Iraq, said in a joint statement.
Naeema al-Gasseer, World Health Organization representative in Iraq, said the improvement in security conditions in Iraq since last year had led to considerable returns nationwide.
“To encourage and protect return, families need to be reassured that basic essential services like jobs, schools, housing and healthcare await them when they come back. We are stepping up our efforts to ensure that these services are available in the most vulnerable parts of Iraq,” al-Gasseer said.