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People No Longer Fleeing Homes In Iraq

International Organization for Migration says people in Iraq no longer are fleeing their homes to escape violence. An IOM report indicates tens of thousands of displaced Iraqi families have returned to their places of origin. Four years ago, the bombing of the Al-Askari Mosque in the northern city of Samarra triggered a mass exodus.

The International Organization for Migration says a number of factors contributed to the return home of many displaced Iraqis. Some expressed in the survey that the country felt more secure. Many also said they were persuaded to return home to better living conditions. But, the report finds those returning to their places of origin still face numerous problems.

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, says one of them is linked to property. "Houses that were left behind might have been destroyed or they could be occupied by other displaced persons," he said. "So, there is a property issue here that needs to be looked at and needs to be addressed. People who are returning home are also facing problems of accessing food, accessing potable water. They are also faced with issues when it comes to accessing quality health care or sending their children to school," added Chauzy.

But Chauzy notes the problems faced by the millions of Iraqis who remain displaced are far worse. Although new displacements have virtually stopped, he says the crisis is far from over.

IOM reports more than 62,000 displaced families or 374,000 individuals have returned to their places of origin since mid-2007. Most have returned to the Baghdad governorate. While this is an impressive number, IOM notes almost 2.8 million Iraqis are still internally displaced. Nearly half of them were displaced before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Chauzy says displaced people cite lack of jobs, decent shelter, access to food, water, health care and legal help as among their most pressing needs. "Shelter, for instance, 58 percent of the people we assessed continue to live in sub-standard rented accommodations. One important point is that actually less than one percent of the displaced we have interviewed live in tented camps," he said. "So, the overwhelming majority of displaced people continue to live either in rented accommodation, in public buildings, in all military camps or in crude squatter settlements, which again, where the living conditions are very, very difficult."

Chauzy says displaced people view tented camps as a last resort. He says they find conditions in these camps so terrible, they will do anything to stay out of them, even if that means living in sub-standard shelters.