A provincial investigative committee in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf is to go check the files of more than 200 displaced families living in a camp outside the city to determine who are genuinely displaced and who are not, an official said on 26 July.
Mashkour al-Mousawi, director of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration’s Najaf province branch, added that the committee will expel from the camp those families claiming to be displaced and will encourage the return of some genuine internally displaced persons (IDPs) to areas now deemed safer for them to return to.
"We have reports that there are some families from remote areas pretending to be displaced who have joined other displaced families in al-Manathira camp to benefit from financial, food and non-food assistance," said al-Mousawi.
"Because of that we have formed a committee to go though all their files in our database and force the bogus ones out of the camp. Part of the investigation will focus on finding out those families whose once restive areas have now become safe so we can encourage them to return," he told IRIN.
According to al-Mousawi, the IDP camp at al-Manathira, about 20km south of Najaf, is home to 231 families, about 1,400 individuals, who are part of 6,112 displaced families, about 42,784 persons, scattered throughout the province.
Najaf is about 160km south of the capital, Baghdad.
Rumours and strike
Once news of the governmental committee reached the desert camp, displaced families began a protest on 25 July, fearing that local authorities would close the camp.
"We can't go back to our areas even if they have become relatively safer because gunmen are still roaming there and are only waiting for the appropriate moment to attack again," said Mahdi al-Aridhi, a 32-year-old father of four.
Al-Aridhi fled his home in the once restive al-Habbaniyah area of Anbar Province in the middle of 2006 after his three brothers were killed by gunmen believed to be al-Qaida in Iraq fighters. He ended up in al-Manathira camp with his 16-member family, including his parents, his brothers' widows, their children and his sisters.
"I can't return even though al-Habbaniyah is relatively safe now and it is the government's responsibility to protect me and my family. We resisted these gunmen when they attacked us and they will never let us back," al-Aridhi, who works as a construction worker, added.
However, al-Mousawi said that his committee will only encourage those families whose areas have become safer due to military operations to return and "will not force them [IDPs] out of the camp against their will”.
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