UN: Baghdad 'independently' decided to shutter all IDP camps by end of 2020

Thousands of refugees and IDPs continue to resist returning to their towns due to serious security concerns and a lack of infrastructure and basic government services.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The United Nations on Friday announced that the Iraqi government’s intention to close the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the end of 2020 was taken by Baghdad “independently.”

Baghdad intends “to close many camps for the displaced in Iraq by the end of 2020,” said the office of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq in a statement.

Nearly six million people have fled to other areas inside Iraq, to the Kurdistan Region and neighboring countries since the Islamic State seized two-thirds of Iraq in 2014. Since the beginning of 2019, the federal government in Baghdad has facilitated the resettlement of large numbers of refugees and IDPs to their areas of origin.

The UN body added that “a number of camps have already been closed and merged over the past few days, and the government has indicated that more camps are expected to be closed.”

“These decisions were taken independently, and the United Nations does not participate in government decisions regarding the situation of IDP camps,” the statement explained.

“The primary responsibility in regard to the protection and well-being of the IDPs rests with the national governments and local authorities,” the statement noted.

Iraqi officials have repeatedly been accused of blocking some populations from their homes while forcing others into areas to which they were afraid, or otherwise unwilling, to return, as documented by Human Rights Watch.

Read More: Iraq blocks displaced families from returning home, forces others to return: HRW

Amnesty International, too, alleged that Baghdad was forcefully returning IDPs and sternly called on authorities to end the practice.

Read More: Amnesty ‘extremely disturbed’ with reports of forced return of IDPs in Iraq

Thousands of refugees and IDPs continue to resist returning to their towns due to serious security concerns and a lack of infrastructure and basic government services.

Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and multiple other Iraqi governmental bodies have a longstanding policy to refuse the non-voluntary return of Iraqi nationals from abroad. This includes those in European nations and the United States, both of which have often exerted considerable diplomatic pressure in recent years for Iraq to accept them.

The UN body expressed its support for “the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of the displaced, and works to ensure that the displaced who left the camps and those who return to their homes receive the necessary support on their way back and upon their arrival.”

The United Nations also said in the statement that it follows the “developments closely and is in constant contact with the Iraqi government on planning to find durable and long-term solutions for all vulnerable IDPs in Iraq.”

Editing by Khrush Najari