Barriers to Integration
While Iraq continues making notable efforts towards economic and social recovery, the country still faces important challenges generated by the massive population movements over the past decades that remain unresolved. Many of Iraq’s displaced populations and the communities that they live in, lack access to work, adequate accommodation and basic services.
The scale of the problem is, however, unclear. The actual number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq is unknown. Official records place the number of registered IDPs in Iraq at 759,000. Many international actors, however, believe that the number is significantly higher and growing. The disparity not only reflects the challenges of accurately collecting data on populations that often live in the margins of an unstable Iraqi society, but also the difference between the criteria set by the Government of Iraq in defining the IDPs, and internationally recognized criteria. These challenges have been further exacerbated since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria.
According to IOM field staff, an increasing number of Iraqis returning from Syria, due to the scarcity of work and insecurity in Iraq, are unable to return to their place of origin and find themselves displaced within Iraq. Furthermore, since mid-2013, IOM field assessments confirm new waves of internal displacements allegedly triggered by the continuing sectarian violence and increasingly fragile security situation across the country. Over 5,000 Iraqis have been internally displaced in 2013. This report aims to give a fresh look into the issues pertinent to the integration of IDPs in Iraq, including the evolving opinions and perceptions of IDPs, host communities (HC), and the relevant authorities dealing with IDP issues at national, provincial and local levels. Based on a series of interviews with the representatives of these groups, the report explores the causes and effects of displacement and integration, so that the perceived benefits can be exploited and the barriers to integration identified and mitigated. The analysis also sought to understand this information through the framework of durable solutions, as set out by the international standards, highlighting to what extent integration, as a durable solution, has been achieved and where further programming needs to be focused. Key findings confirmed that displacement in Iraq predominantly occurred due to a breakdown in security and the prevalence of sectarian violence.
The displaced persons mainly selected their area of displacement based on the presence of security, which they perceived as intrinsically linked to ethno-sectarian homogeneity. While host community members felt that access to work was a primary consideration for the displaced when choosing their area of displacement, the displaced themselves reported other priorities. This represents a recurring attitude amongst host community members who are acutely aware of both positive and negative impacts that displaced populations have on their local economies. The increase in the size of the market in which goods and services can be sold and the arrival of new skills and workers are seen as potential positive impacts. However, when displaced persons arrive, they also establish businesses and seek out employment, competing with host community businesses and workers.