Migration into a fragile setting: Responding to climate-induced informal urbanization and inequality in Basra, Iraq


Forced migration due to environmental degradation is increasingly felt in the southern governorates of Iraq. A decrease in water flow and water quality means the agricultural sector is unable to guarantee sufficient and sustainable livelihood opportunities in rural areas. Cities in the south, including Basra, are struggling to absorb the increasing influx of population, further magnifying the social fragility of urban locations.

The study Migration into a Fragile Setting: Responding to Climate-Induced Informal Urbanization and Inequality in Basra, conducted by IOM Iraq and Social Inquiry, looks at the interlinks between climate-induced migration, informal urbanization and social fragility in Basra city and identifies the particular issues facing high-migration parts of the city that hinder migrants’ ability to sustainably and peacefully integrate in an already fragile urban setting.

Based on 802 face-to-face interviews of local and migrant residents in the city of Basra from July to August 2021, the study’s findings point to the overlap in fragility factors in high-migration areas, where there is a high correlation between issues related to livelihoods and economic security, equality of rights (especially in housing), and protection and safety. Climate-induced migrants tend to fall within this fragile fabric, clustering in poorer, less formal, and less safe areas of the city.

The report calls for a two-pronged approach focused on enhancing the adaptation capacity of recipient urban areas such as Basra, while bringing attention to districts currently forcing families to migrate – mostly rural areas facing extreme environmental degradation and an absence of diversified economic opportunities.