Displacement out of Mosul district continued with the majority of families fleeing security conditions and the dire humanitarian situation with reports of lack of potable water and high food costs in east Mosul. This week 1,428 people fled the district bringing the current displacement to 161,730 individuals. The military offensive to retake west Mosul also started with the retaking of Albu Saif. Unstable security conditions in retaken areas, secondary displacement and denial of returns are some of the protection concerns highlighted this week.
Access to safety and displacement trends
For the first time in some weeks, displacement numbers surpassed purported returns to Mosul district. UNHCR protection teams also observed an increase in the number of families fleeing Hawija and eastern Shirqat. This week 1,160 individuals fled east Shirqat compared with 563 last week. Increased displacement was also recorded from Hawija.
New arrivals from east Mosul quarters of Al-Rashidiya, Nabi Younis, Al-Karama and Al-Quds report that continuous mortar and drone attacks, as well as lack of food, water and medical services are the main reasons for displacement. So far 168 families from west Mosul have arrived in Hasansham/Khazer camps since the beginning of the military operations on 17 October. They reportedly crossed into east Mosul by boat or on foot, walking towards Tilkeif and then into east Mosul where they stayed for some weeks before proceeding to these camps. UNHCR partner teams also interviewed 85 families who fled south Mosul after Albu Saif was recaptured in the recent military offensive into west Mosul. The families informed protection monitors that they were screened and six men and one boy were detained for further screening. The whereabouts of the detained IDPs is unknown but the rest of the group is currently in Jeddah camp. The trickle of civilians fleeing west Mosul is of concern as reports indicate that civilians might be prevented from leaving. UNHCR continues to urge authorities to ensure safe passage for all those fleeing.
This week, UNHCR protection partners identified nine families who left Khazer/ Hasansham camps almost a week ago to east Mosul and returned after a few days. According to the families the lack of food, drinking water, electricity, kerosene, medical facilities and the lack of employment opportunities and the resultant inability to buy basic items, are the main reasons for their return to the camps. They also cited fear for their physical safety due to attacks by extremist groups and the presence of militia patrolling the streets. The families have indicated that they will await the liberation of west Mosul and an assessment of the situation regarding security, availability of services, food costs and livelihood opportunities before considering return.
Protection monitors in Qaymawa and Nargizlia camps identified new arrivals who report that they were residing in houses belonging to people who fled at the start of the Mosul crisis in 2014. A number of these families report that they are from Wana and Zummar areas and that they were displaced towards Mosul in 2014 and are now unable to return to their areas of origin. With the retaking of east Mosul, the original house owners have started returning resulting in the secondary displacement of these families. The new arrivals report the lack of basic services, the unpredictable security situation and the inability to return to their areas of origin (as these areas are disputed territories between central government and the Kurdistan Regional Authorities) as the main causes of their secondary displacement.
UNHCR continues to provide shelter, core relief items and protection assistance to displaced persons in UNHCR and Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD) camps. To date, more than 90,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been assisted by UNHCR in camps and more than 30,000 in out-of-camp locations in response to the Mosul emergency.
Voluntary, forced and refused returns This week 4,788 individuals returned, purportedly, to their areas of origin. The number of returns is lower than the previous week when 11,184 women, girls, boys and men returned. UNHCR protection teams in Hasansham and Khazer camps continue to monitor all returns by interviewing a sample of departing families before their departure and after their arrival in east Mosul to assess the conditions of their return.
In Qaymawa and Nargizlia camps, returns have significantly slowed, with only three families departing this week. Monitors observe that fewer families have registered to return with the authorities despite the fact that a small number of IDPs in these camps allege that Assayesh is actively encouraging them to return through acts of intimidation and humiliation. In response, UNHCR protection teams are assessing the circumstances and closely monitoring the situation, urging that all returns should be voluntary, safe and dignified.
As a result of high level intervention by UNHCR, the Kirkuk Governor suspended eviction notices issued to nearly 1,200 families from Anbar, Salah Al-Din and Diyala, residing in Laylan and Nazrawa camps. The families had been given until 19 February to depart Kirkuk despite many families coming from still unstable areas (security concerns and presence of tribal fighters) and some parts of Anbar such as Baiji, which remains heavily mined and almost completely destroyed and where returns remain prohibited.
Identity documents that had been confiscated to compel return were also returned. The reprieve is welcomed and UNHCR continues to monitor and to engage with the authorities as similar eviction threats occur intermittently in Kirkuk. Fearing forced evictions, four families had already left the camp but returned shortly thereafter.
IDPs in Qaymawa camp originating from disputed areas like Wana, Zummar and other areas, continue to express frustration at their inability to return. More than 300 families have been identified who are from disputed areas and have been refused their right to return. UNHCR has approached the local authorities who have stated that clearance for returns is given by higher government officials. UNHCR continues to engage with authorities urging that voluntary, safe and dignified returns should be facilitated for all IDPs without discrimination.
Movement restrictions and documentation support
Outside of emergency medical treatment, there are very limited sponsorship arrangements and instances of camp-to-camp family reunification. Mosul IDPs are confined to camps until their eventual departure to areas of origin. IDPs express frustration at these restrictions which limit their freedom of movement, access to out of camp medical/ welfare services and livelihood opportunities. Protection assessments indicate that 85% of interviewed families have no income and are dependent on state and humanitarian assistance.
Despite movement restrictions UNHCR has engaged with MOMD, Department of Health, the Ministry of Interior through the Directorate of Civil Affairs and the courts to enable mobile services to the IDP camps. Since October 2016, UNHCR partner legal teams have facilitated the reissuance of more than 1,000 civil documents (e.g., birth, marriage and death certificates, identity documents (IDs), and the registration of court marriages for IDPs from the Mosul corridor). Civil documentation remains a priority protection need among IDPs and the main gateway to accessing medical facilities and social welfare entitlements. In addition, some government departments (education and health) have started visiting camps to register former civil servants to enable salary payments. UNHCR is advocating with the relevant ministries to expand such mo