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Numbers of Displaced in Iraq Rising


The International Organization for Migration reports the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes to escape sectarian strife is rising dramatically, with as many as 9,000 people being displaced each week.

The International Organization for Migration says nearly 190,000 people in the 15 central and southern provinces of Iraq have been displaced by violence since the bombing in late February in Samarra.

It says displacement is following sectarian lines with Shi'ites moving to the South and Sunnis moving to the Central areas. It says Anbar Province has received the largest number of displaced, with more than 33,000 people, most from Baghdad. It notes nearly two thirds of them are in Falluja, Harma and Heet.

IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya says the displacement is increasingly looking like a permanent move.

"Majority of the people have moved in with friends or families and they are living in extremely crowded conditions with not enough resources all around," Pandya says. "And, here I am not just talking about shelter. I am also talking about things like food as well. And, prices for basic necessities are increasing constantly. And one of the underlying problems is the fact that hardly any of them have any work. And, they have identified a lack of employment as one of the key issues that they are having to deal with."

The International Organization for Migration says the reasons for displacement are similar throughout the country. It says peoples' lives are being threatened because of their religious orientation. They also feel threatened by the abductions and assassinations that are taking place around them for the same reason.

Pandya says this situation risks becoming a chronic humanitarian crisis if people are not given the means to earn their own livelihoods. She says tens of thousands of displaced people are in urgent need of food, water, shelter and other items. She says the International Organization for Migration has been carrying out emergency distribution of these supplies for the past few months.

"But, a key problem for us is that funding for these emergency operations is about to run out in a few months time," Pandya says. "What we are really worried about is that with winter approaching and with very few other organizations able to carry out work on the ground with limited amount of assistance available, the situation is going to get worse very quickly."

In a related issue, the U.N. refugee agency says the security situation of Palestinian refugees in Iraq has deteriorated, since the Samarra bombings. It says an increasing number of the refugees have left or are trying to leave the country.

The United Nations says Palestinians in Iraq lack protection, have serious problems obtaining identity cards, and have been the target of continuing harassment, threats, kidnapping and killings.

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