On 8 October 2020, the Government of Iraq announced that it would close all camps and informal sites hosting people internally displaced since 2014 by the end of the year. This re-started similar efforts made in previous years to consolidate and close camps. In early October 2020, approximately 250,000 of the remaining 1.3 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq lived in 39 formal IDP camps, plus a number of smaller informal sites. By the start of December, at least 16 camps and sites had been closed, according to MoMD statements. This caused approximately 34,000 people to rapidly return to their home districts or secondarily displace without advance notice, preparation for alternative arrangements, or attention to basic principles on internal displacement and durable solutions. Only three camps under federal Iraq administration remain open at the time of writing: Jeddah 5,
Salamiyah and Ameriyat al-Fallujah.
Profile of People Moved out of Camps
Many of the 34,000 Iraqis affected by these sudden camp closures are more vulnerable than the 4.8 million people that returned home during recent years. They face significant barriers to their return, such as fully destroyed housing, inability to resume livelihoods activities due to uncleared UXOs, perceived affiliation with ISIL, and/or a myriad of other security, safety and/or political issues that prevent their return home.
The majority are women and children. An estimated two out of five affected families are headed by women, some of them by grandmothers. In Hamam al-Alil camp, at least half the families were headed by women, while in AlKarama, 65 per cent of families were headed by either women or children. Overall, around 18,000 children have been affected by these closures. And approximately half of all people affected are missing some form of civil documentation, limiting their ability to regain a ‘normal’ life. (Source for all statistics is official CCCM data.)
To date, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix has to date identified the ‘arrival’ of 21,000 out of the 34,000 affected people in another location. The location of the remaining 13,000 people is as yet unconfirmed at the time of writing.
Of those successfully tracked, around 70 per cent have arrived in their location of origin and are classified as a “returnee” while the remaining 30 per cent are classified as secondarily displaced. 2 Whether as returnee or IDP, the majority of people found so far (64%) have arrived in just seven districts: Mosul, Telefar, Khanaquin, Ba’aj, Hawiga, Muqdadiya and Hatra districts. In addition, significant numbers have also arrived in Fallujah, Ramadi and Al-Qaim districts in Anbar; Balad and Baiji districts in Salah al-Din; and Kirkuk district in Kirkuk.
Initial needs assessment findings indicate some of those affected by camp closures are in need of immediate assistance. According to follow-up surveys conducted by the Iraq Information Center, Protection Cluster and CCCM Cluster with nearly 1,000 households, around 25 per cent of those that returned to their area of origin have not returned to their habitual residence. Eighty-five per cent of surveyed people report they did not return to their areas of origin due to the destruction, occupation or otherwise inaccessibility of their home property. Nearly all people surveyed report shelter as a top concern and 27 per cent report they are living in critical shelter such as an unfinished or abandoned building or a ‘makeshift’ shelter. At least 60 per cent report they have no income, are borrowing money, or selling assets to make ends meet. Significant protection concerns exist, in view of the incomplete reconciliation and social cohesion efforts and in view of the significant number of women and children affected by the camp closures.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.