Over 3,000 IDPs returned homes after six-year displacement, says Iraqi displaced minister

Displaced Iraqis ride on a truck as they are evacuated, at Hammam Al-Alil camp, south of Mosul, Iraq on November 10, 2020. (Photo Credit: Reuters)

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SULAIMANI — Iraqi Migration and Displaced Minister Evan Faek Jabru said on Friday (November 27) that more than three thousand internally displaced persons (IDPs) had left the camps and returned to their places of origin. 

Jabru said in a statement that 3,127 displaced persons returned to Diyala, Nineveh, Saladin and Anbar governorates, after about six years of their displacement from the war against Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

 “1650 displaced persons returned from Laylan camp in Kirkuk governorate to Hawija district and Saladin governorate, in addition to the return of 875 displaced persons from Alwand camp in Khanaqin district to al-Muqdadiya district and the Saadia and Jalawla sub-districts,” she said, adding that 484 IDPs departed from al-Salamiyah in al-Nimrod district in Nineveh governorate to the center of Mosul, Sinjar district and al-Baaj district.

Jabro also said that 118 displaced persons from al-Karamah camp in Saladin governorate returned to al-Sharqat district, Mosul center and Anbar governorate.

“The government program confirms the necessity of closing the displacement file, which makes us work in parallel with the government program and return those who wish to return from displaced families to their areas as soon as possible, pointing out that there are many families wanting to return in the coming days.”

The ongoing rapid closure of displacement camps in Iraq is rendering homeless more than 100,000 people in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and at the onset of winter, the Norwegian Refugee Council said on November 9.

“People in camps in Baghdad, Karbala, Divala, Sulaimani, Anbar, Kirkuk and Ninewa are being forced out with little notice, and are expected to return to their areas of origin. Many come from neighborhoods that are still totally destroyed and they also risk being blocked at checkpoints, or even arrested, because of lack of security clearance and perceived affiliation with armed groups,” the refugee agency said.

“Closing camps before residents are willing or able to return to their homes does little to end the displacement crisis. On the contrary, it keeps scores of displaced Iraqis trapped in this vicious cycle of displacement, leaving them more vulnerable than ever, especially in the middle of a raging pandemic,” said NRC Secretary General Jan Egelan, calling on the Iraqi government to provide a clear plan for camp closures and share that information with families at least a month ahead so that they can make necessary arrangements.

Jabro previously announced his ministry’s intention to close camps allocated for displaced persons at the beginning of 2021 except for the ones located in the Kurdistan Region and to repatriate the displaced persons to their unsafe hometowns, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor expressed its deep concern.

“The decision announced on November 8 stipulates that while camps in Kirkuk and Saladin governorates, Anbar, and Amiriyat Fallujah camps will be closed by the end of this month, the rest of the camps will be closed at the beginning of 2021. In other words, about a million and a half displaced persons will be repatriated,” said on November 11.

In December 2017, Iraq declared victory over the ISIS. Since then, few IDPs have returned to their hometowns fearing insecurity and vulnerability to sectarian conflicts in addition to poor housing conditions in their places of origin.

 (NRT Digital Media)