DTM: Urban Displacement in Federal Iraq

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As displacement within Iraq becomes increasingly protracted for internally displaced persons (IDPs), further research is needed to understand its causes and put forward potential durable solutions. The United Nations (UN) International Organisation for Migration Displacement Tracking Matrix (IOM DTM) undertook this research project “Urban Displacement in Iraq” with the primary objective of supporting evidence-based planning for the humanitarian community and the government of Iraq, and to inform the response to protracted displacement in this post-emergency phase. This report will detail findings from urban centres within the Federal Iraq. An equivalent report is available for urban centres assessed within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).

Data for this assessment was collected on a sample of households, representative at the city level (95%, 5%), between March and December 2020. Ten urban centres of Iraq were assessed, namely the cities of Baghdad/ Abu Ghraib, Baquba, Dahuk, Erbil, Kirkuk, Mosul, Sulaymaniyah, Tikrit, Tuz Khurmatu, and Zakho. Please refer to the methodological overview for further details.

The findings for the Federal Iraq cities – Baghdad/Abu Ghraib, Baquba, Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit and Tuz Khurmatu – are presented in the attached factsheets, which give a detailed analysis of the conditions for IDPs in protracted urban displacement. Some of the main findings include:

Socio-demographic composition

• While the number of IDP households remained stable in the majority of cities between August 2019 and August 2020, Baghdad/Abu Ghraib, Tikrit and Tuz Khurmatu saw a significant decline in their IDP population.

• The density of IDPs varies greatly between the cities, ranging from less than one displaced household for 100 host households in Baghdad/Abu Ghraib to 17 IDP for every 100 host households in Tuz Khurmatu.

• Over 25 per cent of IDP households in Baghdad/Abu Ghraib and Kirkuk are headed by females, with just over 20 per cent of those female-headed households being “alone”, i.e. either single, widowed, separated, divorced or if married, not living with their husband. In fact, five out of the six assessed cities in Federal Iraq have 10 per cent or more of households that are headed by a female who could be described as “alone”.


• Less than half of IDP households have a stable source of income in three out of the six cities, namely Kirkuk, Baghdad/Abu Ghraib and Mosul.

• Relatedly, informal or daily wage labour is a prominent source of income among the displaced population in Baghdad/Abu Ghraib, Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu, which have commensurately low rates of private sector employment (ranging from 2-6% of displaced households).

• Federal Iraq hosts the two cities (of the 10 assessed), Baghdad/Abu Ghraib and Kirkuk, with the highest dependency ratio among IDP households, meaning that their IDP population comprises a high number of children or elderly people. These cities also record the lowest proportion of households able to meet basic needs, even though the heads of displaced households in those cities were more likely to be working than those in any other assessed city. This points to a key challenge of protracted urban displacement where the income sources of primary caregivers in displaced households are insufficient to meet the needs of young dependents, a growing proportion of whom are born into displacement.

Primary needs in area of displacement

• Medical care ranked highly among the needs of the displaced population in all cities, a need perhaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The most severe situation was in Tikrit where 50 per cent of households reported medical care as one of their top three needs.

• Shelter remains a significant concern in two important respects. Over one third of households in Baquba, Tuz Khurmatu and Baghdad/Abu Ghraib reported the need for a new shelter as a priority. Similarly, high proportions of households in Tikrit, Tuz Khurmatu and Mosul identified the need to repair their shelter in their area of origin. Notably, in the cities where a high proportion of households expressed the need to repair their shelter in their area of origin, the most reported intention was to return.

• Food was reported as a main top need at a much higher rate in Kirkuk and Tikrit - by nearly half of households, in those cities - than in the other assessed urban centres. As a comparison, a low of six per cent of households reported food as a top three need in Mosul.

Levels of peaceful coexistence and feelings of safety and security

• IDPs in the cities of Federal Iraq feel comparatively less safe than those in KRI. The lowest levels of safety were reported in Baquba, where 43 per cent of households reported not feeling completely safe, along with 33 per cent of households in Tuz Khurmatu. However, very few IDP households reported experiencing discrimination, the highest proportion being 14 per cent in Baghdad/Abu Ghraib.

• Trust in local authorities was notably low in Kirkuk, with 21 per cent of households reporting they would not feel comfortable seeking help from the authorities, compared with a high of 92 per cent of households feeling comfortable seeking help from authorities in Mosul.

• Political participation was also extremely low in Tikrit, where only 48 per cent of households voted in the 2018 elections, as well as in Baghdad/ Abu Ghraib (55%). Among those that did not vote, lack of faith in the political system was more commonly reported than among IDPs in KRI cities, with Tikrit, Kirkuk and Baquba having the highest proportion of households that reported political apathy and mistrust.

Future intentions and influencing factors

• IDPs in the cities of Federal Iraq were considerably more likely than those in KRI cities to intend to return, with the majority of households expressing an intention to return in Tuz Khurmatu, Tikrit and Mosul. However, among those households that intend to return, most are deferring that decision by at least a year or are undecided about when to do so. In Tuz Khurmatu, for example, only nine per cent intend to return in the next year and 45 per cent remain undecided.

• Despite high proportions of households reporting an intention to return, key barriers persist and influence the decision to move. The lack of financial means was widely reported in Tuz Khurmatu, Baquba and Tikrit.
A lack of housing in the AoO was the most prominent obstacle reported by households in Kirkuk and Mosul, where the vast majority of households are displaced from within the governorate, in the case of Kirkuk, or within the district for those in Mosul city. The unstable security situation was another barrier reported by nearly half of IDP households in Tuz Khurmatu city, nearly all of whom originate from within Tuz Khurmatu district.

• Baquba was an outlier among all assessed cities with 78 per cent of households expressing the intention to stay within the city. The same proportion of households originate from districts within Diyala Governorate, each of which have locations with poor access to services, housing destruction and concerns related to multiple security actors according to the Return Index.

• Across all assessed cities, those households that reported having previously attempted to return (once or more) are more likely to report that their future intention is to return to their area of origin. This shows that failed returns do not discourage households from wanting to return in future, and potentially even make them more determined to do so. Additionally, the findings indicate that households who attempted return have greater economic means than those who do not, which is likely a factor in their ability to attempt return rather than an indicator of their vulnerability

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