"Lack of shelter is one of the most pressing concerns for Iraq's large internally displaced population", said Raymond Johansen, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. "Many of the displaced have virtually nowhere to go when they are forced out of their homes or return to their places of origin."
With over one million internally displaced people, Iraq is home to one of the world's largest internal displacement crises. The majority of the displaced were forced to leave their homes under the previous regime, mainly Kurds from the oil-rich regions in northern Iraq and Shia Arabs from the South. But hundreds of thousands have also been uprooted by the ongoing violence in the aftermath of the occupation of the country by the US-led Coalition Forces in 2003.
Many internally displaced people live in squalid conditions in makeshift settlements on the outskirts of towns and cities where they are faced with insecurity, overcrowding, poor hygiene and lack of clean drinking water. According to estimates, 80,000 displaced families camp in public buildings under constant threat of being evicted by the authorities. Many of those displaced under the previous regime have returned to their areas of origin but remain displaced because they do not have a home or land to back to. Other displaced cannot return because their homes have been destroyed or occupied. It is estimated that altogether 2 million homes are needed to alleviate Iraq's housing crisis, which also severely affects the non-displaced population.
"There is an urgent need for the Iraqi authorities to adopt a national strategy to address the catastrophic housing crisis in the country", said Mr. Johansen.
A Property Claims Commission was set up in January 2004 to facilitate the process of restitution of or compensation for lost properties, but to date only about 65,000 claims have been registered. The process is open to all those who were wrongfully deprived of their properties under the former regime or have lost their homes as a result of the return of the displaced Kurds in northern Iraq after the fall of the former regime. The deadline for filing claims expired on 30 June 2005. Given the current security situation, the report calls for an extension of the deadline to ensure that all displaced are given a chance to submit their claims and exercise their property rights.
The Geneva-based Global IDP Project, established by the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international body monitoring internal displacement worldwide.