Urban displacement in Iraq: Overview

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As displacement within Iraq becomes increasingly protracted for internally displaced persons (IDPs), further research is needed to understand both its causes and progress towards potential durable solutions: return, integration or resettlement.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) undertook this household study of urban displacement with the primary objective of supporting evidence-based planning for the humanitarian community and the Government of Iraq in response to protracted displacement in this post-emergency phase.

This report presents data from that household study, highlighting trends and comparisons between the assessed urban centres. The first section provides a brief explanation of the methodology. Next, the report explores the characteristics of the displaced urban population and how these demographic trends and dynamics differ across cities. In the third section, the drivers of urban displacement are considered, including factors at the area of displacement, barriers to return in the primary areas of origin and other socio-demographic factors that impact upon the selection of a durable solution.

The report concludes that policies and programmes which aim to address the drivers of vulnerability among IDP households - and to support those households in progressing towards their desired durable solution - should be increasingly tailored to the unique characteristics and needs identified by this assessment.

Cities have remained the main recipient of IDPs throughout the cycles of conflict and displacement in Iraq. This phenomenon is not new, as migration (including forced movements) and urbanisation are closely linked, but the scale and the protracted nature of displacement induced by the 2014 crisis make cities the most viable option for IDPs, especially when they are repeatedly displaced and/ or return is no longer an option. The share of the displaced population hosted in rural locations has remained relatively constant in the last two years. The process of consolidation and closure of camps initiated by the Government of Iraq in early 2019 has translated into a relative increase in the proportion of urban and peri-urban IDPs, which is driven by households departing camps and entering secondary displacement in cities.

The perceived security, access to services and livelihood opportunities of urban centres results in a concentration of the displaced population. The ten surveyed cities that are the focus of this report are all main recipients of IDPs, together they host around half of the out-of-camp displaced population in Iraq (47%). Understanding the conditions of the displaced population in urban centres, and the similarities and differences between those centres, is therefore crucial to a more nuanced understanding of protracted urban displacement and to the realisation of possible durable solutions.