UNHCR concerned as sectarian violence in Iraq threatens new internal displacement

News Stories, 24 September 2013

© UNHCR/H.Caux
A small boy stands in the yard of his family's temporary shelter. More than 460,000 internally displaced people, returnees and squatters are living in harsh conditions.

GENEVA, September 24 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday it is increasingly concerned about the situation in Iraq, where recent waves of sectarian violence threaten to spark new internal displacement of Iraqis fleeing bombings and other attacks.

UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists in Geneva that since the beginning of the year, "bombings and rising sectarian tensions have displaced some 5,000 Iraqis, with people mostly fleeing from Baghdad into Anbar and Salah Al Din governorates, as well as causing displacement within Diyala and Ninewa governorates."

Reports received by UNHCR from the last two weeks suggest that up to 160 families from Basra and Thi Qar were displaced into Salah al Din and Anbar and 57 families from Baghdad arrived in Babylon. A smaller number of families have also fled from various governorates into Kerbala, Najaf and Wassit. Those displaced so far include Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Shia Shabak, Turkmen as well as Shia Arabs.

UNHCR and its partners have been assessing the needs of the newly displaced people and are advocating with the government of Iraq for their registration. "In coordination with the government, UNHCR and our partners ensure that food, core relief items, education and adequate accommodation are provided and that relevant identity and residency cards are also supplied," Fleming said.

This recent displacement adds to the more than 1.13 million internally displaced people (IDP) inside Iraq who fled their homes to escape intense sectarian violence from 2006-2008. Most reside in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa governorates.

Some 467,000 internally displaced people, returnees and squatters remain in more than 382 settlements on public land or in public buildings, enduring harsh living conditions and with limited access to electricity, sanitation, schooling or sufficient job opportunities, despite efforts from the governorates and others. Many may be at risk of eviction.

UNHCR and its partners have been working with the government on a comprehensive plan to end displacement. This incorporates the development of policies on integration as well as livelihood, employment opportunities and shelter programmes.

Fleming also said UNHCR was "gravely concerned" about the safety of seven former residents of the Camp New Iraq (formerly Camp Ashraf), who remain unaccounted for since it was attacked on September 1. More than 50 residents died in the attack in central-eastern Iraq.

"According to reports reaching UNHCR, the missing persons are reportedly being held somewhere in Iraq and may be at risk of being returned involuntarily to Iran, which would be a serious breach of international law," Fleming said. "These seven are all known by UNHCR to be asylum-seekers, and UNHCR wants to have the opportunity to interview them," she added.

In light of the numerous and persistent reports over the past week that these individuals may be at risk of forced return to Iran, she said that UNHCR was calling on the Iraqi government to locate them, to ensure their physical security and to safeguard them against return to Iran against their will.

"UNHCR furthermore urges the government to ensure the protection of the residents of Hurriya temporary transit location and calls on the international community to find solutions outside Iraq as a matter of urgency," Fleming stated.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Displacement in Libya: Misrata, Benghazi and Tobruk

Thousands of people still remain displaced in eastern Libya as a result of the conflict that erupted in mid-February between government and opposition forces. Most are staying with host families, in empty buildings or schools. Other people of concern to UNHCR, such as refugees and asylum-seekers, have fled conflict areas such as Misrata by boat to safer locations. They are now hoping to return to their homes in Libya, be resettled to a third country, or to return to their countries of origin. UNHCR's Helene Caux has photographed the plight of internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees and migrants in Misrata, Benghazi and Tobruk.

Displacement in Libya: Misrata, Benghazi and Tobruk

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

In the three weeks since South Sudan erupted in violence, an estimated 200,000 South Sudanese have found themselves displaced within their own country. Some 57,000 have sought sanctuary at bases of UN peace-keepers across the country. These photos by UNHCR's Senior Regional Public Information Officer Kitty McKinsey give a glimpse of the daily life of the 14,000 displaced people inside the UN compound known locally as Tong Ping, near the airport in Juba, South Sudan's capital. Relief agencies, including UNHCR, are rallying to bring shelter, blankets and other aid items, but in the first days, displaced people had to fend for themselves. The compounds have taken on all the trappings of small towns, with markets, kiosks, garbage collection and public bathing facilities. Amazingly, children still manage to smile and organize their own games with the simplest of materials.

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

Iraq: Khaled Hosseini VisitPlay video

Iraq: Khaled Hosseini Visit

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Hosseini, a former refugee from Afghanistan, met Syrian refugees during a trip to northern Iraq. The best-selling novelist talked to many of the refugees, including an aspiring young writer.
Iraq: Innovation & Refugee ShelterPlay video

Iraq: Innovation & Refugee Shelter

The IKEA Foundation is funding the development of durable and easy-to-assemble shelters for refugees. Syrians in northern Iraq have been among the first to try them out.
Iraq: Separated Syrian FamiliesPlay video

Iraq: Separated Syrian Families

This the story of Suleiman, one of nearly 60,000 refugees who crossed the border into northern Iraq in August 2013. Flight meant many families were torn apart as they searched for safety.