There’s been far less news about Iraqi refugees since President Obama took office, now that the media here and abroad find it less productive to beat on George W. Bush about the problem. But the problem persists. Ann has posted many times recently about Iraqi refugees in America and elsewhere, and on November 15 posted a good overview of the problem. Before the Age of Obama we frequently posted on the problem within Iraq and the surrounding countries; see our Iraqi refugee category for 445 previous posts.
The internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Iraq are a different problem from the refugees who left Iraq during the fighting. The resettlement agencies don’t deal with them, and no one has suggested they be resettled anywhere else but their own country, so probably the reporting tends to be less politically freighted. In August we posted a report on a visit to the IDPs from the admirable Angelina Jolie, who said their numbers hadn’t been reduced by much. Reuters at that time reported:
An estimated 1.6 million Iraqis remain uprooted within the country, while another 300,000 have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in security in the past year, UNHCR said.
Today in a UN publication comes a report from Baghdad on the state of the IDPs and what the government is doing for them. The funding is insufficient and some members of Parliament are trying to increase the amount.
Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, head of parliament’s committee on displacement and migration, said 200 billion Iraqi dinars (US$169.5 million) is to be allocated in the currently proposed 2010 budget for the Displacement and Migration Ministry.
“Although it is more than what was allocated in 2009, it still won’t alleviate all the suffering of IDPs and returnees and [significantly] improve their living conditions,” Zankana told IRIN.
“We consider the displacement crisis a long-term one – its file can’t be closed in one or two years, as some say. And we believe that increasing the amount [of money for them] will help alleviate a big portion of this segment’s suffering.”
The Iraqi government cut the funding in 2009, apparently because oil prices were down and it relies on oil revenues for much of its income. Here’s something to note:
His [Zankana’s] calls are supported by prominent Iraqi activist Basil Abdul-Wahab al-Azawi, head of the Baghdad-based Commission of Society Enterprises, an umbrella group of more than 1,000 NGOs inside and outside Iraq. Al-Azawi has suggested that a joint committee with representatives from the Displacement Ministry and local and international NGOs should be set up to evaluate the needs of IDPs.
He also called on the government to shoulder all the costs relating to IDPs and returnees (without reliance on outside agencies), and have international NGOs focus on assisting refugees in neighbouring countries.
A thousand NGOs! Probably most are small. It seems to be a suggestion that bespeaks some pride and a wish to become less dependent on outside forces, a good sign. Zankana said that much of the money supposed to be paid to the IDPs, and money due to those who returned to their areas of origin, was not paid.
The numbers are very shaky. The UN said in August that there were 1.6 million IDPs. This article says:
According to recent government figures, there are nearly 2.6 million IDPs in Iraq and about two million Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan.
That’s a pretty big difference. Whatever the correct figure, only 45,000 families were reported to have returned to their own areas. That’s hard to believe. Surely some of these families have relatives remaining in their home areas, and other incentives to find a way to return. Iraq has a functioning economy. Wikipedia reports GDP growth of 6.6 percent in 2008, and per capita income of $4,000 in that year, which is not bad when you consider most people live in families with several people. Why is the IDP problem persisting so? Is there perhaps a lot of fraud, as there tends to be when money is being given out? Or maybe there’s some reason I don’t understand.