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New report highlights growing number of IDPs

Iraqi Red Cresent Society staff hand out supplies to displaced families at al-Hashemite compound in Babil Province. IRCS

A new international report says that on 20 March there were some 2,778,305 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. Hitherto the figure of 2.2 million IDPs in Iraq had been widely publicised.

The 21-page report - produced by IDP Working Group members consisting of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), other UN Agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - is based on data gathered by the IDP Working Group, and information from the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, the Kurdistan Regional Government, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other NGOs.

It said 1,212,108 had been displaced between the fall of Saddam’s regime and February 2006, when a revered Shia shrine in Samarra was blown up, and that a further 1,566,197 were displaced in 2006 and 2007 when the country was engulfed in sectarian violence.

Baghdad hosts more IDPs than any other governorate (563,771 persons). It is followed by Mosul, Dahuk and Diyala governorates, each with over 100,000 individuals; Sulaimaniyah, Babylon and Wassit (over 70,000 persons); and Anbar, Najaf and Karbala (over 50,000). The report said many IDPs remained unregistered with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and with the Kurdistan Regional Government.

No large-scale returns

Despite government measures since February 2007, including a security crackdown in Baghdad and the recruitment of Sunni tribesmen and former insurgents to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, no large-scale returns have been noted, the report said.

According to the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, nearly 6,000 IDP families (about 36,000 individuals) returned to Baghdad between February 2007 and March 2008. It also estimated that about 45,000 individuals had returned from abroad since 2007. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) estimated that around 46,000 individuals had returned to Baghdad from Syria between 15 September and 27 December 2007, the report said.

“The improvement in the country’s security situation is only on the surface; the root problems still exist and any improvements could be reversed at any moment,” said Saad al-Hadithi, a political science lecturer at the University of Baghdad.

“The displaced fear returning to their homes and neighbourhoods without guarantees of protection from the government,” al-Hadithi told IRIN.

Priority needs

The report said food, shelter and access to work were the IDPs priority needs. Some 58 percent of IDPs are living in rented accommodation; others are in tented camps, abandoned buildings or camps of mud and reed houses.

To ease the problem, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration is planning to build an as yet unspecified number of residential compounds nationwide with access to health care and education facilities.

“This is an indication that the government is not serious enough about getting these families to return to their homes - it’s just a postponement of the crisis,” al-Hadithi said.


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