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Government planes to facilitate repatriation

In Amman, most Iraqi refugees live in very basic and often crowded accommodation
(P.Sands/UNHCR)

Iraqi officials plan to hire private airplanes to bring home migrants from Jordan, where they have been living since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Security in Iraq remains in dispute, with officials in Baghdad insisting it is safe to return as they make arrangements to welcome hundreds of people from neighbouring countries. But UN organisations remain sceptical about the extent of security in the country.

During a meeting with senior Jordanian officials, and in discussions with representatives of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Iraqi minister of immigration Abul Samad Abdul Rahman said security has improved and gave the green light for Iraqis scattered in the Middle East and beyond to return home.

Abdul Rahman was seeking help from Jordanian officials to facilitate legal procedures that would allow the smooth return of as many people as possible, according to an official from the Jordanian Ministry of Interior, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Jordanian officials said they were happy to help, as economic pressures have been fuelled by the influx of refugees.

Figures released by the Jordanian government in early September show that hosting the estimated half-million Iraqis had cost the kingdom nearly US$1.6 billion, mainly in education and health expenditure.

Financial incentives


''UNHCR
does not consider that, at present, conditions are such inside Iraq as
to encourage repatriation. However, if an Iraqi takes a decision to
return voluntarily and based on sound information, we will support such
return on an individual case basis.
''

The first flight, expected to be organised within the next two to three weeks, is scheduled to carry about 500 people who have told the Iraqi embassy in Amman of their desire to return home.

According to the Iraqi ambassador in Amman, Saad Hayani, at least 500 to 600 Iraqi nationals have sought Baghdad’s help to facilitate their return.

Hayani said the “improved security in the past months encouraged many families to end their asylum-seeking process" and he expected many more Iraqis to return before the year-end.

Financial incentives have been offered by the Iraqi government to impoverished families to help them resettle, particularly in Baghdad, home to most asylum-seekers in Jordan.

Security concerns

However, UNHCR officials said they did not believe the situation in Iraq allowed the immediate return of asylum-seekers.

They nevertheless offered assistance to those who wished to return.

"UNHCR does not consider that, at present, conditions are such inside Iraq as to encourage repatriation. However, if an Iraqi takes a decision to return voluntarily and based on sound information, we will support such return on an individual case basis," said UNHCR deputy representative Jamal Arafat.

"Once it is clear that the decision to return is voluntary, the choice of transport is open. If the Iraqi government is making available air transport for Iraqi refugees to return, we would have no problem for properly vetted returnees to repatriate by this means," he told IRIN.

mbh/ar/mw


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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