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Minister upbeat about IDP returns

An Iraqi family returns to their village in Burah, Diyala Province, after being displaced for months by insurgents

Improved security in most of Iraq has encouraged some 65,000 displaced families to return to their homes since early 2008, Minister of Displacement and Migration Abdul-Samad Rahman Sultan has said.

Of this number, 2,070 families had returned from outside Iraq, Sultan told a press conference on 30 April.

The figures related only to those who were registered with the Ministry to receive financial and non-financial aid, and efforts would be made to register other returnees, he said.

He said about 254,000 families had been displaced since 22 February 2006 (bombing of a Shia shrine north of Baghdad which sparked an upsurge in violence). In Baghdad, of the 104,000 displaced families since that time, some 32,000 had returned to their original homes, he said.

The average family in Iraq has 5-6 members.

Recent bombings

Basil Abdul-Wahab al-Azawi, head of the Baghdad-based Commission of Society Enterprises (CSE; an umbrella group of more than 1,000 NGOs inside and outside Iraq), has expressed concern that bombings in the past few days which left nearly 200 civilians dead could affect the rate of IDP returns.

However, Displacement Minister Sultan does not think the recent bombings will unleash a new wave of sectarian violence, lead to new displacements or affect the rate of returns, and he struck an optimistic note: "We are expecting a very big return of displaced families this summer from both inside and outside Iraq."

Al-Azawi said the Iraqi government had not yet adopted "effective and real measures" to help IDPs who have returned to their homes, and he called on the government, Iraqi NGOs and the international community to speed up the process.

"We are still finding people who prefer to continue to be displaced rather than going back to their original places for many reasons," the CSE's Azawi said, adding that there was a need for speedy and fair compensation for those whose homes had been destroyed.

Budget cuts

Sultan warned that his ministry's plans to help IDPs could be affected by budget cuts due to low oil prices (oil revenues make up over 90 percent of the government's budget).

His ministry's budget for aid programmes had been reduced to US$44.8 million, despite requests for 10 times this figure, and the ministry's planned operational budget of about $18 million was likely to be cut by 40 percent.

"This will, of course, create a number of problems in many fields," he said.

In April parliament passed a $58.6 billion budget, sharply down on the $79 billion originally envisaged.


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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