Iraq: Centre & South Bi-weekly Protection Update (4 - 20 August 2017)



UNHCR is concerned with the escalation of forced evictions and relocations from camps in Baghdad. IDPs from west Anbar are subject to multiple security screenings, severe movement restrictions, separation and detention, especially of single males due to the perceived extremist group affiliation. A new return agreement in Baiji, aalah al-Din, is yet to be implemented.

Forced evictions and relocations from camps in Baghdad

On 5 August, 92 IDP families were forcibly evicted from Asia Camp in Baghdad – with security cards confiscated - and the camp was closed, on the presumption that IDPs’ areas of origin had been liberated and they should return. These families were displaced from Anbar in several waves between 2014 and 2015. Those unable to return due to unsuitable or unsafe conditions in areas of origin were being required to move outside the city limits to a camp in Abu Ghraib. aecurity actors prevented access of humanitarian actors and media to affected families. During UNHCR interventions with the Provincial Council, it was indicated that the authorities intend to gradually close all 34 camps within Baghdad city limits.

Many IDPs in Baghdad are unable to return to areas of origin due to the protection situation including tribal conflicts and presence of armed groups, contamination with explosive hazards, as well as damage to properties and critical infrastructure. Forced evictions and relocations from camps within Baghdad’s city limits have led to fear and uncertainty among IDP families, and serious concerns for the safety and welfare of the evicted families.

UNHCR and protection partners have intervened with the Baghdad authorities, including meetings with the Chairperson of the Provincial Council, who agreed to let IDPs remain at suitable locations within Baghdad city limits. aubsequent meetings between UNHCR and the IDPs Committee of Baghdad Operations Command resulted in: clarification that current evictions and relocations are restricted to Asia, acout and Khaimat al-Iraq camps; securing access for UNHCR and partners to affected camps in order to monitor relocations; agreement to stop confiscating security cards till IDPs reach alternative camps; and commitment to issue new security cards to relocated families in alterative camps or new locations in a timely manner. The issue of forced evictions and relocations from camps in Baghdad was also referred to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq for high-level interventions with concerned authorities.
Protection and CCCM partners stand ready to support the authorities with well-planned voluntary relocations and humanely implemented camp-consolidation efforts in suitable areas, where IDPs can enjoy freedom of movement and access to services and livelihood opportunities.

Displacement from West Anbar, East Shirqat and Hawiga, and related protection concerns

Although there has been no formal declaration of the military offensive to retake west Anbar (Al-Qa’im,
Ru’ua, Ana), some military operations are already underway and increasing number of families are fleeing eastwards. aome families have had no option but to enter ayria (Albu Kamal) and then re-enter Iraq in Rutba and proceed east until they reach Kilo 18 Transit Camp in Ramadi. Two other routes go through Ukashat and Hasa areas before also ending up in Kilo 18. Many of the IDPs are males and they have indicated to protection partners that they fled first to escape being forced to join armed extremist groups, and that their families will join them later. The IDPs indicated that they had to pay smugglers UaD 250 – 300 per person – a high cost that most families cannot afford without selling off assets – and went through several security screenings before and after arriving at Kilo 18 and at final destination camps in east Anbar.

Single male IDPs from west Anbar face serious protection concerns due to perceptions that they are affiliated to extremists. In addition to multiple security screenings, they face severe movement restrictions well beyond those imposed on other IDPs. In Kilo 18, they are isolated in a separate section of the camp and are not allowed to leave the camp, nor are they issued with security coupons which are normally issued for screened IDPs. Increasingly, they have been living in internment-like conditions, and there is a high risk of arbitrary detentions and disappearances.

The Ameriyat Al-Falluja (AAF) Local Council decided on 7 August to prevent IDPs from west Anbar from accessing camps in the sub-district and this caused diversion of a convoy of new arrivals to Habaniyah Tourist City (HTC) camps. This was despite assurances that IDPs, after passing through Kilo 18, would be allowed in the AAF camps, where there are at least 3,776 empty slots. UNHCR and partners are following up with camp management, the local authorities and the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD) to ensure access of IDPs to the existing camps.

While operations have not formally been declared to retake east ahirqat and Hawiga from extremists, more airstrikes have been reported in those locations. Civilians continue to flee, mainly towards west ahirqat and Al-Alam, both in aalah al-Din, and to Kirkuk. During the reporting period, 139 individuals fled east ahirqat towards west ahirqat; meanwhile 55 families and an additional 25 single individuals fled Hawija to Al-Alam camps in aalah al-Din.

A new return agreement for Baiji, Salah al-Din has yet to be implemented

In Baiji – with the exception of Al-Askry neighbourhood - those in control restricted all returns to the district.
However, on 24 July an agreement was announced, after local reconciliation efforts, to allow returns to Baiji. Unfortunately, the return agreement is yet to be implemented. Reports indicate that it has stalled. The new return agreement was initially intended to cover only the following areas within Baiji district: Hyundai village within Hay Al aenaiaa and Tel Zatar in Baiji Centre. As per the return agreement,
IDPs originating from these areas were to submit their return requests for security screening and approval.
Thus far, no returns to these areas have materialized due to extensive property destruction, contamination from explosive hazards, and lack of basic services especially water and electricity. It should be noted that there has been previous return agreements that were never complied with due to disagreements on issues such as compensation levied on returning families. Return to Al-Askry neighborhood, the only area in Baiji Centre for which returns were never restricted, is ongoing but slow.

Barriers related to replacement of civil documents in Anbar

In Al-ahuhda’a camp within the AAF camps, protection partners have identified many IDPs (approx. 430 families) from Falluja and other areas, whose family members are detained, involved in tribal conflicts and/or wanted due to perceived links to extremist groups. These families’ civil documents are either lost or expired and they are unable to attend the civil registries outside of camps to replace their documentation due to fears about the security screening process. aources indicate that this reportedly stems from a 2015 internal directive by the Ministry of Interior which stipulated that where the head of household is either detained or missing, the family will not be issued with civil documentation due to perceived links to extremists. The ID issuance would only be possible upon return of the head of household. Current information indicates that the directive was subsequently amended to allow for issuance of IDs even when the head of household was still missing as long as they were not flagged in the security databases. Despite this change, families in camps remain fearful to go through this screening process, and some may already have been expelled from their tribes and fear presenting themselves at civil registries as it may lead to their detention or other harm. Protection partners are following up and undertaking awareness sessions on how to replace missing civil documentation, and providing legal assistance to secure documents.