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Iraqi Government Encourages Refugees, Internally Displaced to Return


The International Organization for Migration says the Iraqi government is allocating more than $200 million to persuade internally displaced people and refugees to return home. the IOM says the government is enacting a variety of legal and practical measures to encourage these returns. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from IOM headquarters in Geneva.

The Iraqi government has had some successes in getting people to return to the homes they fled during the peak years of the conflict. In a new report, the International Organization for Migration says more than 100,000 people have returned to Baghdad since the program went into effect on September first,

And it says nearly 72,000 more people have returned to other places in the country, mostly to the provinces of Anbar and Diyala. The report finds very few refugees have returned. It says 92 percent of those going back to their homes of origin are people who have been displaced within the country.

IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy, tells VOA these returns are encouraging, but remain insignificant given the huge scale of the displacement problem.

"You still have 2.8 million people internally displaced within Iraq, including 1.6 million people who were displaced following the bombing of the Samara mosque in February 2006," said Chauzy. "So the scale of the challenge is absolutely stupendous."

In addition, more than two million people have fled Iraq and sought asylum in other countries, mainly in Syria and Jordan. According to the IOM report, very few of these refugees have taken up the government's offer to return.

Chauzy says disputes over property rights remain the single biggest impediment. He says the government has enacted a number of measures aimed at resolving this problem.

Chauzy says a law passed last month requires that all squatters vacate houses they unlawfully occupy in Baghdad or face prosecution. But he says to help matters, the government is offering financial inducements to persuade squatters to leave.

"That includes a financial payment of about $250 per month for six months to help people find alternative housing options. It also includes return facilitation centers, mostly in Baghdad. And, these centers are there to assist returnees to register to receive a return grant of about $900 and to resolve those property issues that many returnees will face when they return to their home," said Chauzy.

IOM notes security in many parts of the country is improving and new displacements are decreasing. But it says millions of internally displaced people are still unable or unwilling to return home.

It says they face many hardships and are in need of basic humanitarian assistance such as food and non-food items, shelter, education and health care.

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