Last Updated: Friday, 28 November 2014, 15:42 GMT

Iraq: Government incentives for IDPs, refugees to return

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 3 June 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Iraq: Government incentives for IDPs, refugees to return, 3 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4847bb94c.html [accessed 29 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BAGHDAD, 3 June 2008 (IRIN) - The Iraqi government has allotted US$195 million to encourage internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to return to their homes, the Migration and Displacement Ministry said.

[Read this report in Arabic]

The amount - the largest government budget to tackle displacement - "will cover the travel expenses for those who are outside Iraq, financial aid, compensations for those whose properties suffered damages during their absence and will establish also two main offices in Baghdad to receive the returnees' applications", the Ministry said in a statement on 1 June.

"[T]he Ministry of Migration and Displacement will work closely and cooperate with local and international aid agencies to distribute aid materials and food to help the returnees back to their normal life," it said.

A survey of Iraqi refugees' intentions to return to Iraq, especially those in neighbouring Syria and Jordan, home to at least 2.5 million refugees, "showed that 94 percent of those refugees are ready to repatriate only when the security situation is improved and jobs are available", it added.

As of May, the ministry registered more than 10,000 displaced families, about 50,000 individuals, who have returned home since February 2007 when US-backed Iraqi security forces launched a large-scale security operation. Of those, 6,000 families were in Baghdad.

Displacement problem dates back nearly 25 years

Iraq's displacement problem dates back nearly 25 years and is the result of some of former president Saddam Hussein's policies and three wars - the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, the first Gulf War of 1991 and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, according to analysts.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said more than 4.2 million Iraqis fled their homes during this period - most since 2003. Of these, two million are living as refugees in neighbouring countries - mostly Syria and Jordan ? while 2.7 million are IDPs.

The ministry has not yet determined how the money would be spent. "We are still holding meetings with other government officials to draw up an expenditure policy for this new allocation," Ali Shaalan, head of the ministry's planning directorate, told IRIN.

Shaalan added that the ministry estimated 100,000 people would return to their homes this year with improved security.

The funds would likely be disbursed as $65 million to cover travel expenses, $25-50 million for rehabilitating damaged property, $25 million to cover aid material and food, while the rest would be financial aid, ranging from $ 2,000 to 3,000 per family, he said.

"We expect as many as 100,000 people to return this year to their homes whether we pay for them or not as Iraq is witnessing a remarkable security development," Shaalan added.

For Shakir Ali Khalil, a 53-year-old father of four, who was forced to leave his house in the summer of 2006, the government's initiative is not enough to make him return. "The government wants to say to the world that we [have] overcome the displacement problem [but] it doesn't care about the safety of these families," said Khalil, a Shia who left his house in Sunni-dominated western Baghdad's Abu Ghraib area.

"The question to the government is: can you protect my family there? And if you can, for how long?" Khalil said, adding that one of his neighbours was killed last year when the government said "security improvement was achieved in their area".

sm/at/mw


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