BAGHDAD, 28 February 2011 (IRIN) – Iraqi government plans for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees may not be fully implemented this year because of a funding shortfall, says Deputy Minister for Displacement and Migration Azhar Al-Mousawi.
“We have set [up] a lot of big projects this year, but the ministry – according to the allocated budget – may not be able to implement its commitments,” he told IRIN on 26 February.
In January, the government announced plans to tackle internal displacement, and monitor and assist Iraqi refugees abroad. It sought to encourage IDPs to go back to their areas of origin, stay in the areas they have ended up in, or help them move to a new area.
The government also established “Return Assistance Centres” in Baghdad, and offered a financial assistance package of US$850 and a six-month rental compensation package for registered IDPs.
“We have plans to tackle internal displacement, help the returnees and encourage expatriates [mainly doctors and teachers who fled the violence] to return," Mousawi said. "All these plans need money [but] what we have is not enough."
According to the UN Secretary-General’s representative on the rights of IDPs, Walter Kalin, the scale and history of forced displacement in Iraq has created a complex situation that needs a “comprehensive strategy” to address the immediate humanitarian needs and human rights of displacement-affected communities, and find durable solutions.
“Iraq has suffered many waves of internal displacement throughout its recent past as a result of conflict, sectarian violence, and forced population movements associated with policies of the former regime – with an estimated 1.55 million persons remaining in displacement since 2006,” Kalin said in a 16 February report.
“This situation is compounded by a marked deterioration of basic infrastructures and services across the country, lack of livelihoods and economic opportunities, continuing insecurity and sectarian divisions, as well as serious deficits in relation to governance, rule of law and the capacity of government structures."
According to the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Iraqi IDPs and refugees are unwilling to return to their places of origin because of continued real or perceived threats of violence: Their homes were either destroyed or occupied by others; and they lacked employment opportunities and access to essential services.
Mousawi said his ministry, which is mandated to implement government plans for IDPs and returnees, was only allocated the equivalent of US$250 million this year, but needs $416-500 million to fully implement its plans. Iraq’s parliament approved an $82.6 billion budget on 20 February.
The ministry, he added, would review its plans and seek partners mainly in the UN. “Our priority is to help displaced people and returnees to meet their needs,” he said. “But returnees will need more to be spent on them than those still displaced because they need health, education and other services."
Funding shortfalls have also affected the work of international organizations. In its 2011 Global Appeal, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said its budget for this year in Iraq was about $210.6 million, lamenting a 20-40 percent funding shortfall.
“Some returnees and IDPs remain in dire circumstances that require urgent humanitarian interventions,” it said in an appeal earlier this year.
(For latest statistics on returnees and IDPs by governorate, see)
According to Kalin, over 75 percent of IDPs live in rented accommodation or with host families, while over 20 percent live in irregular settlements, former military camps, tents and public buildings.
There are an estimated 1.5 million IDPs across the country, according to Refugees International and the Brookings Institution. Many of these fled their homes after sectarian violence broke out following the 2003 war that toppled Saddam Hussein.
(For a recent IOM review of displacement and return in Iraq since 2006, see)