U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Iraq



Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reported instances of refoulement in 2005. The Government offered refugees protection under the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period (TAL), but had no mechanism for determining refugee status. Refugees typically registered with the local government in their area. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) did not have an office in Iraq. By the end of July, nearly 1,800 asylum seekers (from Iran, Syria, and Turkey) were awaiting determinations.

More than 100 Iranian Kurdish refugees from al-Tash camp attempted to leave the area as fighting escalated in nearby Fallujah in February. After they made it to the Iraq-Jordan border, the Government of Jordan denied them entry. They were attempting to join a further 660 Iranian Kurdish refugees who had been living in a no-man's-land camp on the other side of the border. Many other Iranian Kurdish refugees left Iraq for Europe, traveling irregularly through Turkey.

In November, UNHCR signed an agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq to allow the construction of semi-permanent housing in Kawa, south of the Kurdish city of Erbil, for 2,000 Iranian Kurdish refugees from the al-Tash camp. In March 2006, UNHCR urged the Iranian Kurdish refugees on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Jordan border to join the others in Kawa.

Groups not associated with the Government threatened Palestinians, Syrian Baathists, and Ahwazi Iranians whom they felt the previous regime favored. Media reports blaming Palestinian refugees for a bombing incident in Baghdad in May increased hostility from the host population toward the refugees. Syria accepted 19 Palestinian refugees from Iraq in November, after initially refusing and leaving them stranded on the border for a month. In April 2006, Syria accepted another group of 180 Palestinian refugees stranded on the Iraq-Jordan border.

The Minister of Displacement and Migration reportedly said that Palestinians were not welcome in Iraq and should leave. After the February 2006 bombing of a Shi'a shrine in Samarra, unidentified assailants killed 12 Palestinian refugees in Baghdad and kidnapped several others. More than 100 families received death threats.

Detention/Access to Courts

U.S.-led coalition forces or Iraqi security forces detained at least 85 refugees during the year. According to UNHCR, police, security forces, Iraqi security forces, coalition forces, and members of the public repeatedly threatened, detained, and abused refugees, particularly Syrians and Palestinians they suspected of terrorism. Iraqi troops reportedly detained 27 Palestinian refugees and tortured or extorted money from them before releasing them. One died in custody with signs of torture. The KRG detained three asylum seekers for illegal entry, but UNHCR had access to the detention facilities and intervened to win their release.

The International Committee of the Red Cross was able to monitor detainees in coalition custody, but not those that Iraqis held.

Refugees in al-Tash camp received refugee cards from the al-Anbar Provincial Government, and refugees in Kurdish regions received residency permits from the KRG. UNHCR issued all refugees refugee/asylum seeker certificates, which authorities honored. Other refugee groups still held documents from the Hussein regime, many of which had expired, and there was no way to renew them.

Syrian, Palestinian, and Iranian Arab refugees reportedly had to renew residency permits every three to six months but authorities required proof of employment. Many refugees, however, had no employment due to discrimination and insecurity.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

There was no legal restriction on refugees' freedom of movement or choice of residence. The general insecurity, as well as harassment, physical attacks, and arbitrary detention restricted the ability of refugees to move freely. The Prime Minister ordered curfews or restricted access to many cities based on the security situation and Fallujah was only accessible to residents with specific identification documents.

In general, refugees did not have access to international travel documents, but some Palestinians still held Iraqi, Egyptian, or Palestinian travel documents.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Refugees were able to work legally under permission from the President's office, but continuing insecurity made this difficult. Employers dismissed many Palestinian refugees following the end of the Hussein regime and many were reluctant to hire refugees, especially Palestinians, as they resented the favor the former regime had shown them. There was no labor legislation in force, for refugees or nationals.

Refugees were not able to register businesses of their own, own land, or open bank accounts, as all these activities required Iraqi national identification documents.

Public Relief and Education

For refugees who had trouble obtaining residence permits, it was difficult to gain access to education and medical services on par with nationals. UNHCR assisted refugees with medical services, education, water and sanitation services, and income-generating projects. Refugees in Kurdish regions had full access to primary and secondary education, and some enrolled in universities there. UNHCR also subsidized the rent of Syrian and Palestinian refugees.


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