Refugees wait to register on January 16, 2016 in Passau, southern Germany. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Germany, a popular destination for Iraqi migrants, is deepening its cooperation with the UN Migration Agency (IOM) and the Iraqi government to reintegrate those who moved to European states back into their home communities.
Over the past three years, more than 9,000 Iraqis have voluntarily returned from Germany under the IOM program funded by the German government.
In 2015, 722 Iraqis returned, 5,660 in 2016, and 2,859 in 2017. In the first quarter of 2018, 450 Iraqis have returned, according to the IOM.
The scheme, run in partnership with the Government of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), aims to create jobs and training opportunities in Iraq to help migrants reintegrate sustainably.
“Our goal is to cooperate with the Government of Iraq as well as other stakeholders, such as IOM, to set up training courses and create jobs for hundreds of thousands of young and unemployed people inside Iraq,” said Gerd Müller, the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, announcing the agreement in Baghdad last week.
Muller also met with Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Erbil during his visit. They discussed trade opportunities, humanitarian aid, and the resettlement of IDPs. Germany played a key role in facilitating talks between Erbil and Baghdad when ties between the two collapsed following the Kurdish independence referendum, and provided the Peshmerga with military training and equipment.
Gerard Waite, IOM Iraq Chief of Mission, said the return of migrants is essential to Iraq’s reconstruction following years of war and economic crisis.
“This agreement underlines our shared commitment to support the continued development and reconstruction of a prosperous and stable Iraq. This framework acknowledges the vital importance of the successful reintegration of migrants in rebuilding their country,” said Waite in an IOM statement.
Abdulkareem Abdullah, the Government of Iraq’s Undersecretary for Labour Affairs, said the improving security situation in Iraq is timely for the return of migrants from Europe.
“Cooperation between governments and international organizations to support voluntary return and job creation for young people and those returning from the diaspora is important. Their reintegration into Iraqi society is timely as the security situation has improved. The Ministry will provide full support to reach our shared goals; resolving the current situation in Iraq requires high levels of cooperation,” he said, according to the IOM statement.
The scheme offers returnees assistance with documents and travel arrangements, as well as medical and mental health support. It also offers help with housing and personal finances.
A majority of the Iraqi migrants in Germany arrived with the influx of Syrian refugees who flooded the gates of Europe in 2015.
European authorities have imposed tough asylum laws in recent years. Many migrants and asylum seekers have had to wait months in camps before a hearing on their case.
With its open door policy, Germany received more than one million refugees and migrants in 2015.