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IDPs again leave their homes, preferring security of refugee camps

By Rudaw 6/8/2018
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Displaced people who recently returned to their homes in Mosul and other war-torn areas are choosing to come back to IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region. The lack of jobs and services, together with a deteriorating security situation, is driving many families to return to their tents. 

Around 12 families per week return to their homes from Hassan Sham and Khazir refugee camps, but the number of those being displaced for a second time is much higher. An estimated 4,800 families from liberated areas have gone back to Hassan Sham and Khazir camps.

Sheikha Fathi, a mother of five, returned to her home in Mosul last month. But without a source of income to feed her children, she soon returned to the camps.

“We have no source of income, no salary, no house,” Fathi told Rudaw. 

“I have twins who need milk. I cannot afford to buy milk for them. I have come back here. I am selling our equipment, like the clothing I receive, just to afford to buy milk. All the people of Mosul are like me. Who do we ask for help?” 

Authorities had expected to close the camps by early 2018. However, the deadline for IDPs to stay has twice been extended by six months. Now the tents are scheduled for clearance at the end of 2018. 

Given security concerns in Mosul and other areas, camp officials now believe these refugees will not have returned to their homes even by the end of 2021. 

Nevertheless, the Iraqi government has ordered the closure of health centers and schools inside the camps. 

The provision of electricity, water and other basic needs by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)-run camps has allowed 350 families to return to the Hassan Sham and Khazir camps from Mosul, Anbar, and other war ravaged areas over the past 18 days.

Camp officials say the government must urgently focus on improving the situation for those who have returned home. 

“Lack of services and sometimes political matters are a problem, so they once again return to the refugee camps,” Musa Ahmed, head of the Barzani Charity Foundation, told Rudaw. 

“It creates a lot of problems. The [Iraqi] Migration Ministry is not providing enough assistance for those leaving the camps and returning home.”

Mosul was liberated from ISIS in summer 2017. Although the Iraqi government announced the defeat of ISIS in Iraq in December, the group still operates sleeper cells across the country, threatening a new insurgency. 

Much of Iraq’s second city, particularly districts on the western bank of the Tigris River, was destroyed in fighting and by coalition airstrikes. Rebuilding the city and its services will take years and cost billions of dollars.  

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