Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Iraqi Refugees Return to Challenges

EPIC's Erik Gustafson was quoted in an excellent article about the prospects and problems faced by Iraqi refugees returning home. Here's an excerpt:

An Iraqi soldier controls traffic at a checkpoint in central Baghdad.The Migration Policy Institute's Kathleen Newland argues that the Iraqi government is no longer encouraging large-scale returns.

"Before very many people had returned, the Iraqi government said to the ministry and to agencies assisting refugees in Syria to stop these organized returns because the Iraqi government just could not handle them," says Newland. "They were afraid that a large number of returnees might destabilize the situation if they try to get back to their houses that are occupied by others and that people would come back because of a monetary payment to a situation that really is not safe for them."

That view is shared by Erik Gustafson, Executive Director of the non-profit
Education for Peace in Iraq Center, which is based in Washington. He says Iraq still does not have the necessary infrastructure to support large numbers of returnees.

"We are seeing some steps like the distribution of oil revenues start to move in the right direction. But there are still a lot of roadblocks in terms of getting the resources out to the communities. A lot of Iraq's government ministries operate as the personal fiefdoms of whatever political party has that ministry and not truly operating on a national level," says Gustafson.

Returning Iraqis often face a shortage of housing and basic services, and residency restrictions in most governorates. Displacement specialist Dana Graberladek of the International Organization for Migration says those who have nowhere to go take residence in empty buildings or live in boxes on the street. Those who can, stay with relatives or rent.

"Those who are able to return to their homes return to the same conditions that all Iraqis are now facing: insecurity throughout the country, a lack of employment, a lack of access to medical services because there has been a flight of medical professionals. Many of the health centers and hospitals do not have the equipment and the medicine, overcrowded schools for those areas that have experienced an increase of internal displacement," says Graberladek.
For the full text of the article, click here.


Anonymous said...

Since refugees are trying to return, this must mean the "surge" is working and progress is being made. Hate to give George W. credit but maybe it was the right thing to do. Certainly gives McCain a boost in his rhetoric.

Emily Stivers said...

Actually, returning refugees are facing violence and insecurity. The reason they are returning is not necessarily that things are better, but rather that they have out-stayed their temporary visas in neighboring countries or otherwise have no choice.

For EPIC's full take on the question "is the surge working," check out our previous blog entry on the subject:

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