Iraq Crisis Response Plan 2020



4,100,000 PEOPLE IN NEED


IOM Vision

IOM Iraq strives to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity in Iraq through supporting safe and dignified living conditions for people in displacement, while supporting progress towards durable solutions tailored to local needs and priorities, based on robust data and analysis. IOM will continue support to the Government and civil society actors to create conditions for the revitalization, stabilization and reform of social, economic and political life.

Context Analysis

The humanitarian context in Iraq entered a new stage after reaching the official end of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) crisis in December 2017, and the post-conflict period allowed for the return of over 4.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their areas of origin.

However, severe challenges in areas of displacement and in areas of return are still to be addressed. According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) and Return Index, as of February 2020, 1.3 million IDPs remain displaced and in or at risk of protracted displacement and more than half of the 4.6 million returnees returned to areas with living conditions considered “severe” when it comes to access to basic services and livelihoods, or safety and social cohesion (11% of returnees are living in high severity locations, 40% in medium severity locations). Among IDPs, a lack of job opportunities (73%), lack of services (68%) and shelter (62%) are three key factors hindering return. Among returnees, access to employment and livelihoods continues to be the main need: over 80 per cent of returnees live in locations where the availability of jobs is ‘insufficient’ and over half live in locations where most individuals “are not economically active”.

The material needs of IDPs and returnees are coupled with unresolved conflict-related grievances that lead to increased community tension. In the Sunni-majority areas directly affected by conflict, tension exists between those who became displaced during the initial advance of ISIL and those who initially remained and fled at a later period, with some families being perceived as affiliated to ISIL.

The forced closure of camps due to the camp consolidation and closure policy implemented by the Government of Iraq since August 2019, with an estimated 16,875 households leaving the camps for non-camp locations between August and October 2019, has led to premature and unsafe returns to areas highly affected by intra-group violence. Returning IDPs with perceived affiliation to extremist groups such as ISIL might be exposed to harassment or retaliatory attacks, which might in turn reignite community violence. In some instances, returned IDPs with perceived affiliation have become displaced a second time after having been rejected by their communities of origin. These instances highlight important challenges to restoring trust and social acceptance of those who remained under ISIL, which is critical to prevent further grievances and new cycles of conflict.
Secondary displacement to non-camp areas also stretches the absorption capacity of the host communities, who currently host 76 per cent of the total caseload of remaining IDPs. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, approximately 60 per cent of refugees, mainly from Syria, followed by Iran and Turkey, also live in non-camp settings. In locations hosting people who remain displaced for a lengthy time, there is risk of alienating the host communities if their needs are not considered and common narratives aimed at strengthening social cohesion developed. Moreover, IDPs that want to return also often face situations where their houses or land are being inhabited by other people, and without the documentation needed to claim their land and houses back, or with poor access to government services, this becomes a barrier to their return and a threat to social cohesion. New arrivals in camps, due to secondary displacement linked to failed returns or after a rapid camp closure, also continue to be reported.

IDP and returnee dynamics are affected by the root causes of instability that affect the country at macro-level. Already present in the pre-ISIL context, these root causes continue to prevail. At the political level in Iraq, where rule of law is weak, and the risk of conflict recurrence is high, public distrust of state security actors is a major policy challenge and barrier to sustainable peace-building. The series of anti-government protests that started in October 2019 and the political vacuum left by the four-month impasse in government formation since December 2019, as well as the ongoing anti-government protests, are likely to stress an already dire situation.

From the perspective of social dynamics, the impact of the latest ISIL-related crisis has deepened the already entrenched division among society's groups. The blocked return of IDPs to certain geographical areas in Baghdad, Basra and Diyala have caused some traditionally Sunni majority areas to become Shia majority or mixed Shia-Sunni areas. In Northern Diyala, Arab-majority areas have become majority Kurdish, which is seen with resentment by the blocked Sunni population.

In terms of security, in a context of rising regional tension, Iraq’s fragmented security sector is struggling to cope with the increase in ISIL attacks and potential regrouping. The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), underpinned by a thin regulatory framework, keeps a force of 160,000 individuals. However, its role in the after-ISIL period remains undefined and the perceived alignment of large sections of the PMF to foreign interests and the lack of a convincing separation between the PMF and political parties in Iraq provides one of the most significant threats to the stability of the country. Within such a heightened security-political environment, security sector reform (SSR), as well as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), are critical areas of effort but also highly sensitive, and until there is greater clarity over the longer-term plan of action to resolve these issues, support in these areas will be relatively limited and requiring broad-spectrum political agreement which may be hard to attain.

Economic conditions in Iraq also remain challenging. High government spending on civil service salaries, lack of competitiveness of various sectors of the economy and other longstanding issues combine with more recent challenges, such as the early 2020 dramatic decline in oil prices and the economic impact of COVID-19, to create a very challenging environment in terms of job creation and economic opportunity.

In this context, IOM’s interventions contribute to lifesaving, humanitarian aid, along with reducing the impact of the political, social, security and economic destabilizing factors that could derail the transition and recovery process, and hence, contribute to the outcome of a sustainable, stable and regulated environment that paves the way towards durable solutions and long-term peace.