Iraqi Civilians Continue to Face Displacement Years after Conflict

Iraqi civilians take refuge in camps for internally displaced persons. Iraqi civilians take refuge in camps for internally displaced persons. IOM 2019

Two years after peak conflict between Iraqi forces and the Islamic State (ISIS), millions of civilians are still displaced.  

With 5.8 million people forced from their homes since the arrival of ISIS in Iraq in 2014, more than 1.8 million civilians are still without permanent and stable homes. Some are currently being pressured into returning to unsafe conditions, while others are living in private or informal housing arrangements. Many of the internally displaced persons are hesitant to return home, since 242 neighbourhoods across Iraq are covered with landmines and other explosives. 

Another group of civilians is displaced because their relatives are considered to be sympathetic to ISIS. These de facto guilt by association bans are most widely affecting women and children, who are being disenfranchised of basic human rights by being blocked from reintegrating back into society. Civilians who are impacted by guilt by association bans are prevented from receiving health care, basic services, access free movement and essential civil documentation. This includes children who are denied birth certificates which are required for enrolling in school. Approximately 156,000 individuals are missing some form of civil documentation as a result of  living under ISIS rule. 

There is discussion about creating government residential compounds to house families with suspected ISIS affiliation. The length of stay in such compounds would be indefinite and the government is not keen on supervision of such residential areas by any humanitarian organization.However, 1,072 civilians from the western Iraqi province of Anbar are returning home this week. This was made possible through an initiative by the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration. 

The European Union has announced a €2 million contribution to camps housing an estimated 35,000 civilians. “While many displaced families have been unable to return, we cannot forget about those who remain in camps,” the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides said. The commissioner also states that, “Ensuring that those displaced by fighting have access to humanitarian assistance remains a priority for the EU in Iraq.” These funds will be used at Jad’ah camps outside of Qayyara where a fraction of 1.5 million Iraqis continue to live. The contribution has been made possible by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in hopes of improving the living conditions of internally displaced persons. 

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Author: Christina Borst; Editor: Shrabya Ghimire

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