UNHCR in Iraq
UNHCR has been present in Iraq since the 1980s, working with the Government of Iraq (GoI) to protect and assist, as appropriate, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Iraq is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. However, the country has hosted and assisted, with UNHCR’s support, refugees of Palestinian, Iranian and Turkish origin. The fall of the previous regime, coupled with sectarian violence that erupted in 2006, resulted in various waves of internal displacements. Consequently, UNHCR’s mandate expanded to respond to the protection and assistance needs of IDPs throughout the country.
The 40,170 refugees and asylum seekers in Iraq are scattered in camps, settlements and urban settings, mainly in Ninewa and Anbar governorates, the Kurdistan Region, as well as Baghdad, where some 10, 000 reside.
UNHCR provides protection and relief assistance to the refugees, whilst actively seeking durable solutions to their situation, through voluntary repatriation, resettlement or local integration.
Since January 2012, an additional 36,248 Syrian refugees have entered Iraq to seek protection from the violence in their home country. See specific update.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
According to the latest Government statistics, there are an estimated 1,332,382 million IDPs in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa governorates. Most IDPs fled their homes owing to fear in connection with sectarian violence triggered by the bombing of the Samara shrine in February 2006.
IDPs live either with families, in rented accommodations or in informal settlements. Some 467,000 persons – comprising of IDPs, returnees and squatters - remain in more than 382 settlements throughout the country, with 191,163of them living in 125 illegal settlements in the capital, on public land or in public buildings, facing harsh living conditions, with limited access to electricity, adequate sanitation, schools, as well as job opportunities, in addition to being at risk of eviction by the authorities.
UNHCR has been working with the GoI on a Comprehensive Plan to end displacement. The plan incorporates the development of integration policies regarding livelihood and employment opportunities, as well as shelter programmes in areas of displacement or in new land allocated by the GOI. Security and access to basic services in area of displacement or of return remains a major priority.