Iraq closes another displacement camp in Kirkuk, evicting 450 families

Iraq closed down yet another displacement camp where 450 families had been seeking shelter in the disputed province of Kirkuk, relocating them to camps that are still open or to other areas across the province.
author_image Hiwa Shilani

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq closed down yet another displacement camp where 450 families had been seeking shelter in the disputed province of Kirkuk, relocating them to camps that are still open or to other areas across the province.

Laylan 2 Camp contained former residents of the Hawija sub-district displaced by the Islamic State. The majority of them were transferred to Laylan 1 Camp, which now includes 1,500 families. Local sources confirmed that the decision was made by the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD).

Hawija was previously one of the Islamic State’s longest-running strongholds. Even after the city’s liberation, it continues to witness insurgent attacks, ambushes, kidnappings, and killings by those to the group's violent world view.

Since the beginning of 2019, the federal government in Baghdad has facilitated the resettlement of large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to areas where they once lived.

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

Out of six camps that were set up in Kirkuk province, only two–Laylan 1 Camps and Yahia Camp–remain open.

Fifty of the displaced families from Laylan 2 Camp were re-located to neighborhoods inside the disputed city of Kirkuk and its surrounding villages after being granted security clearances by Iraqi security forces.

According to local security sources, some of the remaining families are accused of being affiliated with the Islamic State and had been previously transferred from Nineveh province and were not allowed to move freely in and out of the camps. 

Many of the displaced families at the camp do not have official documents, identification cards, or food forms. The Kirkuk provincial administration has said it would work to address this issue, but Iraqi officials, forces, and even tribal leaders have repeatedly restricted access to such government documents and programs essential to families for whom there was some claim of even distant family affiliation to the Islamic State. 

Read More: After expulsion from camps, Iraqis blocked from returning home by tribal leaders

Even young children have been the target of such policies, including by actively denying them access to education.

Read More: HRW: Iraqi Gov. denies education access to children with alleged parent affiliation to ISIS

In September 2019, Iraq’s Council of Ministers and the Nineveh administration started to forcibly expel IDPs from camps in Nineveh in a move to close the camps permanently. 

With the camp closures, displaced residents are forced to return to their liberated areas where they then can face acts of revenge by security forces or others who accuse the families of having ties to the Islamic State, causing many to flee to the Kurdistan Region.   

Read More: Iraq’s decision to close IDP camps in Nineveh forces displaced families into Kurdistan Region

Editing by John J. Catherine