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

Amnesty described the developments as “extremely disturbing,” adding the returns “are clearly premature.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi government must end its forced return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their areas of origin which continue to lack essential services and security, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Local media reported on Wednesday that Iraq had begun to move hundreds of IDPs from the Hammam al-Alil camp in southern Mosul to their hometowns in Hawija, an unstable area liberated from the so-called Islamic State that lacks basic services.

In a statement on Amnesty’s website, the organization’s Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf, described the developments as “extremely disturbing,” adding the returns “are clearly premature.”

“Many of these people don’t have homes to go back to and will struggle to access essential services such as health care and schooling and may not afford access to water and electricity,” Maalouf stated.

She called on the Iraqi government to establish “a framework to ensure their safe, voluntary return” before sending displaced persons back home.

The Amnesty director warned that families who return to unsafe areas face evictions, arrests, looting, sexual abuse, and discrimination.

“This sudden change in policy is worrisome and is contrary to international human rights law and standards, as well as international humanitarian law,” Maalouf said. “We urge the authorities to immediately halt these forced returns.”

Read More: Thousands of displaced persons return home ‘voluntarily,’ Iraq says

On Aug. 21, Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration said over 4,000 IDPs living in a displacement facility in Salahuddin province returned to their areas of origin “voluntarily.”

Ali Abbas Jahakir, a senior ministry official, said in a statement that 4,425 IDPs from the Qadisiya camp in Salahuddin “have returned to their areas of origin” in other parts of the province as well as Nineveh province.

Since the beginning of this year, the Iraqi federal government has actively helped IDPs and Iraqi refugees settle back into their retaken homes. Many, however, continue to resist a return to their towns due to security concerns and lack of basic services.

Earlier this month, the supervisor of camps in the autonomous Kurdistan Region said the rate of reverse migration has increased due to the lack of essential services and safety concerns in liberated areas.