IOM Iraq confronts challenge of long-term displacement in new studies

A displaced Iraqi man from the Ezidi community carries his daughter as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

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SULAIMANI — The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) mission in Iraq has recently completed two studies that examine the factors that contribute to long-term displacement in the country, the organization said in a statement on Friday (April 19).

The two reports complement each other in so far as the first considers the finding that many displaced Iraqis are unlikely to return to their places of origin in the near-term, while the second examines the prospects for integration with host communities.

“We cannot develop effective strategies for durable solutions to displacement if we do not understand why many Iraqis remain in displacement, and we cannot facilitate these durable solutions if we do not understand what factors can facilitate or block the return or integration of the displaced population,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Marta Ruedas.

“These studies conducted by IOM and its partners are extremely timely as the United Nations’ Country Team in Iraq is in the process of advising and assisting the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to provide dignified, sustainable solutions for the many Iraqi families that remain in displacement,” she added.

Since 2014, over six million Iraqis have been internally displaced. An estimated 1.7 million remain so.

The first study provides an in-depth look at the places of origin for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq.

Forty-one percent of IDPs come from Mosul and Sinjar, while another quarter come from Hawija, Baiji, Fallujah, Ramadi, Tel Afar, or al-Ba’aj.

Sixty-one percent of the total have been displaced for longer than three years.

The goal of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Government of Iraq, and the international humanitarian organizations that work on displacement has always been to enable IDPs to return home and thrive.

Less than fifteen percent of IDPs, however, have moved out of their districts of displacement since May 2018, with nearly all IDPs planning to remain in displacement for at least the next twelve months, according to the IOM report.

The main reason for this is that the homes of IDPs in their places of origin were destroyed during the fight against Islamic State, with a majority of out-of-camp IDPs and more than a third of in-camp IDPs citing this as their reason for not returning.

Other concerns include jobs and economic prospects, security, and services.

If IDPs are to stay displaced over the long-term, it is important to understand how they integrate and interact with the communities where they are displaced.

The second study was jointly implemented by IOM Iraq, the Returns Working Group, and Social Inquiry and looked specifically at the experience and perceptions of long-term displaced families in Sulaimani and Baghdad governorates with the goal of identifying factors that make IDPs feel integrated with their host communities and vice versa.

It found that the economic situation of IDP families was the biggest contributor to integration, giving the example that IDPs with savings were more likely to feel integrated.

(NRT Digital Media)