A parliamentary committee and local NGOs have called on the government to delay implementing its decision to evict all squatters from government property (land and buildings).
“It is the government’s right to evict these people but in our opinion the government should take into consideration the plight of squatters and offer them alternatives, for example, land or good financial aid,” said Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, head of parliament’s Displacement and Migration Committee.
“The law must prevail, but I do believe the best way to deal with this issue is to postpone the implementation until the middle of the year as it is winter now and we can’t turf those people out onto the street. This will affect the attendance of their children at schools,” Zankana told IRIN on 11 January.
The ministries of finance, and displacement and migration, should work out appropriate compensation for these people based on the number of family members and their economic situation, he said, adding: “we shouldn’t create more problems when solving a problem.”
In the aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003, hundreds of homeless people scrambled to find somewhere to live. Many moved into government-owned property - especially buildings damaged in attacks by US-led coalition forces and vacated by officials of Saddam’s regime.
|A map of Iraq showing the origins of internally displaced people|
Zankana’s concerns were echoed by Iraqi activist Basil al-Azawi, who heads the Baghdad-based Commission for Civil Society Enterprises, an umbrella group of over 1,000 NGOs operating inside and outside Iraq. He said: “The law must be respected but its hasty implementation could lead to more social problems, such as a higher crime rate or more homelessness.”
Al-Azawi offered two solutions: “Accommodating them in furnished government residential complexes where they would pay rent; and the drawing up of long-term plans to revive the country’s economy.”
Over 60 percent of internally displaced Iraqis are from Baghdad, according to the International Organization for Migration in Iraq. Some two million refugees are living abroad, mainly in Jordan and Syria.
On 4 January the Iraqi government said squatters had until March to vacate government property or face legal action, and offered them grants of US$850 to US$4,300 to help them find alternative accommodation.