Migration

Despite the defeat of ISIS, thousands remain displaced in northern Iraq

Iraq

While citizens displaced in the Khazir IDP camps can see their villages through the barbed wire, their return to them is much harder. Officials in Erbil and Baghdad have paid no attention to the return of many IDPs to their homes following liberation from ISIS.

One year on from the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, millions remain displaced in camps scattered across northern and western Iraq. Although accurate numbers are hard to obtain given the chaos that ensued at the time, according to the most cited figures, the number of displaced people peaked at 3.5 million in August 2016.

Although the defeat of ISIS at the end of last year saw hundreds of thousands of people managing to return home, nearly two million people remain displaced according to figures from the United Nation’s International Organisation For Migration (IOM). For these northern and western provinces, the problem of internally displaced people (IDP) remains the most pressing issue, along with reconstruction.

The province of Nineveh, where a number of IDP camps are located is a case in point. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there are approximately 602,500 displaced people in the province. This makes Nineveh the province with the largest displaced population followed by Dohuk, Erbil and Salahuddin.

Nineveh was one of the last provinces to be liberated by the Iraqi army, with the support of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU). For the years preceding ISIS’ control of the province, Nineveh became a hot-bed for extremist groups, which ISIS managed to exploit. The battles to liberate Mosul, Tal Afar and the other areas in the province were one of the most brutal battles in modern Iraqi history. The fierce conflict, coupled with ISIS’ own brutality forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in terror.

The conflict, unrest and destruction that was brought about following ISIS’ control of the province forced many people from their homes into IDP camps that were scattered across Nineveh and the country as a whole.

Despite liberation, many displaced people remain without a home or the means to return to their homes. Urgent reconstruction is needed to help those suffering in under-equipped IDP camps return to the areas they were forced to flee.