As Displacement Continues in Iraq, Nearly 1.5 Million Iraqi IDPs Return

Iraq - As military operations to retake Mosul intensify, concerns mount that these operations may displace additional tens of thousands of civilians – beyond the 160,000-plus individuals currently categorized as “displaced” in the Mosul region after four months of combat.

Nonetheless, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) has identified a recent spike of internally displaced persons (IDPs) returning to their location of origin across the country – including in the Mosul area – despite simultaneous displacement movements.

As of 16 February, DTM identified a cumulative total of 217,764 IDPs (36,294 families) displaced as a result of the Mosul operations that started on 17 October 2016.

Yet today only 160,302 individuals (26,717 families) remain displaced; of these, 93 percent are hosted in Ninewa Governorate. Most (78 percent) are from Mosul district in Ninewa Governorate. The remaining 57,462 individuals (9,577 families) have returned to their location of origin.

Context here is important. Since January 2014, the DTM has identified over three million internally displaced persons (a total of 505,000 families), dispersed across 3,661 locations in Iraq.

Yet for the same period, DTM has recorded nearly 1.5 million returnees (a total of 249,327 families), that is, IDPs who believe their communities are safe enough now to return to. This represents an overall increase in the returnee population of 7 percent (98,946 individuals) just in the past month.

With Iraq’s military retaking areas from ISIL, IOM has provided figures and identified locations of significant returns, which will facilitate the efforts of the Government and humanitarian agencies in directing assistance for people likely to return to their homes this year.

During the spring and summer of 2016, IDPs began returning to retaken areas of Anbar Governorate. By early February 2017, Anbar recorded the highest increase in returnees – 73,386 individuals – to districts including Falluja, Ramadi and Heet. Smaller numbers of IDPs returning were recorded in the districts of Salah al-Din, including Al-Shirqat and Tikrit.

Among the challenges faced by returnees are security regarding the presence of militias, risks of unexploded ordinance, and the destruction of infrastructure, including housing and other private property.

IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Weiss said: “Displaced Iraqis have had their lives uprooted and communities have been deeply affected. Those returning home need the full support of the humanitarian community. In cooperation with the Government of Iraq and humanitarian partners, IOM is providing returning Iraqis with a variety of support mechanisms including shelter rehabilitation, livelihoods, non-food items, and light infrastructure projects, to support their ability to resume their lives and provide for their families.”

In the town of Gwer, IOM is currently the only organization working with returnees. “Thanks to IOM’s livelihoods programmes, people are encouraged to return because they receive support in finding employment or income-generating activities, said Herash Husain Hasan, Gwer’s Mayor. “That helps them to rebuild their homes.”

Shortly after ISIL took control of areas in Gwer in 2014, most schools were closed and therefore children have missed out on education for the last for two years. Currently, of the seven schools in Gwer, only three are open.

Three weeks ago, IOM turned to rehabilitating Gwer’s schools, where classrooms were burned, latrines destroyed, and furniture broken. This includes cleaning the buildings, supplying desks and white boards, painting, plastering and repairing plumbing. These efforts are expected to be completed by mid-March.

“Once schools and health centres are rehabilitated, people will have the courage to stay in the community,” the Mayor of Gwer added.

In Gwer, nearly 200 individuals recently benefitted from 26 business support packages and 6 business enhancement packages. These packages are supporting a coffee shop, barbershop, bakery, butcher, hairdresser, and a clothing rental shop.

IOM is also rehabilitating Gwer’s health centre, re-wiring its electrical system, painting, plastering, plumbing, and providing furniture. The works began in February and will be completed by the end of March 2017.

While the health centre is being rehabilitated, an IOM medical team in Gwer is operating out of two caravans, providing health consultations and medicines for adults and children. Since November 2016, the team has provided more than 3,500 primary health care consultations.

In an effort to support further returns of displaced populations in Iraq, IOM is chairing the Returns Working Group (RWG), established by the UN Humanitarian Country Team to develop recommendations for Iraqi governorates affected by returns and to provide technical advice to humanitarian partners, government authorities and civil society organizations to support returns in accordance with international standards.

The latest DTM Emergency Tracking figures on displacement from Mosul operations are available at:

Please click to download the latest:

IOM Iraq DTM report, providing country-wide displacement and return figures from January 2014 - 2 February 2017:

IOM Iraq DTM Mosul Operations – Factsheet:

IOM Iraq DTM Mosul Operations – Data Snapshot:

For further information, please contact IOM Iraq:

Hala Jaber, Email:, Tel. +964 751 740 1654

Sandra Black, Email:, Tel. +964 751 234 2550