Refugees Return By the Busload - 05.19.2008

Baghdad, Iraq - The number of Iraqi refugees in Syria and elsewhere surpassed 2 million refuges in the last few years according UNHCR statistics. They began to move to Syria and elsewhere after the security situation in Iraqi became exceedingly difficult to endure, beginning with the rising insurgency in 2004, and the number increased steadily until late in 2007. Although there have been claims by the Iraqi government that Iraqis are returning in large numbers, the latest report by UNHCR suggests that entirely the opposite is true. According to UNHCR’s report, only 4 percent of those interviewed are planning to return to Iraq.

Most Iraqis were unable to find jobs to support their lives in Syria, due to the difficult economic situation that Syria is experiencing. Many of them decided to leave between the years of 2005 and in particular 2006 while Iraq was still undergoing a very bad security situation. Now many are returning simply because they could not afford to continue living in Syria without work. Given the reports that the Iraqi government was offering one million Iraqi dinars to any refugee family that returns to Iraq, it begs the question whether some returned to Iraq for a short period to collect the money, visit family, and immediately returned to Syria. Other reports suggested that Iraq was not yet ready for a massive repatriation of its citizens, and the UNHCR appeared to agree.

In the middle of 2007 the Sahwa forces started to control some of the areas in Baghdad and the western governorates, restoring at least the appearance of security in many tumultuous and predominantly Sunni areas of Iraq. These events encouraged a great number of Iraqis to return to their homes and attempt to regain some semblance of their normal lives.

Although the Iraqi government has claimed that many returned home, the UNHCR recently declared that there are still more than 1 million refugees in Syria, and that the Iraqi government is not doing enough to support internally-displaced Iraqis, much less those abroad.

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