The forced return of displaced people from IDP camps is raising concerns about the intent of the central government in light of the upcoming elections.
Thousands of Iraqis are still displaced from their homes and lingering in IDP camps all across the country. A large proportion, estimated to be over half the total number by the International Organisation for Migration, have already returned to their homes. However, there remain several thousands who are simply not prepared to return home, largely due to the extreme difficulties they would face in their home towns, which have seen extensive damage due to the battles with ISIS.
IDPs stranded in the Daha al-Rawi camp in Anbar province were interviewed and they expressed their dissatisfaction with the forced return of families to their homes, which are still not inhabitable. In some cases displaced people have no home to go back to at all.
According to aid organisations, some 5,000 displaced people were evacuated from their camps at the end of 2017. They also report that local authorities in Nineveh province have issued warnings to around 13,000 families that they will be forcibly returned to their homes.
This has raised serious concerns among non-governmental organisations working with displaced people in Iraq. Many are laying the blame on the central government who are accused of pushing for the return of displaced people to their homes in a bid to make sure they participate in the national elections that will take place in May 2018.
In response, the central government has stated that it is seeking to avoid demographic changes in the areas of Iraq liberated from ISIS so that previously non-existent inter-group tensions do not arise.
The IDPs, nevertheless, remain disgruntled and see little reason to return home and to vote for parties whom they see as having neglected their plight throughout the conflict against ISIS.
The infrastructure across towns in Nineveh and Anbar provinces, previous strongholds of ISIS, has been devastated. Roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, water and sewage systems, and people’s homes have been heavily damaged. The issue of unexploded mines is also still a serious preoccupation within towns that were under ISIS control.