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Basra closes doors to displaced

A map of Iraq highlighting Basra province.

Basra province, 550km south of Baghdad, can no longer accommodate Iraqi families fleeing insecurity, according to local officials.

“We cannot cope with any more families seeking refuge in our province, whatever their reasons. The governorate is seriously affected by the high number of displaced families,” a senior official in Basra Governing Council, Hassan Abdul-Kareem, told IRIN on 11 November.

“Health services have deteriorated, schools are overcrowded and we aren’t even able to offer a good service to our locals. Things have become worse since the high influx of new arrivals,” Abdul-Kareem said.

He added that according to the local council and the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, more than 40 displaced families have been arriving daily in Basra. The increase has led to higher crime rates, deteriorating security and a rise in the number of commercial sex workers.

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“We cannot try to offer something that isn’t available; we lack resources. We understand the desperation of Iraqi families trying to flee violence but the central government has to take urgent action to better disperse displaced families to other governorates,” he said.

“The number of Iraqi families fleeing their homes for safer areas has increased, despite reports that levels of violence have diminished,” said Abdul-Kareem.

Over two million displaced

According to a report released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on 19 September, 2.2 million Iraqis are internally displaced – of whom 30 percent are in the southern governorates.

Mayada Obeid, a spokeswoman for the Basra-based South Peace Organisation, told IRIN that hundreds of families in Basra province lacked all essentials.

“At least 60 percent of displaced children taking refuge in the province don’t attend school, more than 70 percent are suffering from acute or chronic malnutrition and the health service lacks essential medicines, including painkillers and anti-fever drugs,” Obeid said.

“We are sorry that the province is closing its doors to new arrivals but we understand the situation as the local government and NGOs are unable to cope even with those who have already settled there,” she added.

Internally displaced people in Iraq

Northern provinces 800,900
Central provinces 740,500
Southern provinces 714,600
Total 2,256,000
Source: UNHCR (September 2007)

IDPs turned back

Dozens of families who arrived in the province on 9 and 10 November were forced to turn back or head to other southern provinces as Basra security stopped them at check points and prevented them from entering Basra city.

“When they saw our bags, a police officer stopped us and told me and my seven family members that we had to head back to where we came from because the local council had prohibited the entrance of new arrivals,” Raghib Muhammad, a 43-year-old Baghdad resident seeking refuge in Basra, said.

“It was chaotic. We don’t have anywhere to go and have improvised a tent on the outskirts of the province until someone could help us or give us an idea of what to do. We fled the horror of Baghdad with the hope of finding peace here but it seems our problems are just starting,” Muhammad added.

Obeid said local NGOs have started contacting other southern governing councils, asking for the new arrivals to be accepted in their displacement camps. However, she said the situation was difficult and most provinces had insufficient resources.

“We hope a solution will be found and these families will be able to find a place where they can sleep and eat with security and peace,” she added.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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