HASSAN SHAM CAMP, Iraq – Thousands of people displaced from Mosul are choosing to remain in camps, despite the hardships, because of security concerns and inability to earn a livelihood in their home neighbourhoods.
The government intends to close Hassan Sham camp at the end of the year, a move that will throw the families living there into limbo.
Noora Majeed, together with her three children, tried to return to Mosul last week, but was denied entry by Shiite militias at a checkpoint. She said she was abused by the militias who asked her to marry one of them. She refused and came back to life in the camp.
“They also asked me to marry one of them so as to be allowed to return home. I refused, saying I won’t marry and cried. They mocked me, saying your tears are valuable for us, you are beautiful and you are innocent,” she recounted.
She, like half of the 6,000 in the camp, chose life in a tent over returning to uncertainty and insecurity.
According to data from three camps for Iraqis displaced from Mosul, seven to 10 families return home on a weekly basis. But 20 families come back to the camps.
Mahmood Fathi did not flee Mosul even during the war against ISIS. But inability to make a living forced him to come to the camps where he and his family can at least receive aid from NGOs.
“Our life is miserable. We have chosen living in a camp in order to at least receive aid from the organizations. I was doing construction work for 10,000 or 5,000 dinars a day. You tell me, can a family of six or seven live on 10,000 ($8.40) a day?” he asked.
According to officials of Hassan Sham and Khazir camps, the Iraqi government does not have any plan to improve the situation for the IDPs.
“The fate of the camp is unclear as the Iraqi government has not made a final decision. There are plenty of problems here and the people feel uncertain as the Iraqi government is not taking responsibility,” said Rashid Darwesh of the Barzani Charity Foundation and manager of Hassan Sham and Khazir camps.
The families living here have little choice but to wait, uncertain of what the future holds.