Help for refugees in Jordan is focused almost exclusively on Syrians. Researchers Izza Leghtas and Dina Baslan make a plea for Yemenis, Somalis, and Sudanese not to be forgotten.
On April 24, 2018, Refugees International hosted its 39th Anniversary Dinner, honoring humanitarians who work to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugees and displaced people in the United States and worldwide. This year’s event honored Chobani Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Hala al-Sarraf, executive director of the Iraq Health Access Organization.
The earthquake that hit the Iran-Iraq border region this week creates even greater need for humanitarian assistance in Iraq. People made homeless by the earthquake join the more than three million Iraqis already displaced by years of conflict. The need for additional aid from donors, the United Nations, and humanitarian organizations is more urgent than ever.
Washington, D.C. (October 3,2017) – Many Iraqi women and girls perceived or alleged to be affiliated with ISIS are reportedly being detained and subject to sexual exploitation and abuse, according to a new Refugees International issue brief released today. The brief, “Guilt by Association: Iraqi Women Detained and Subject to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse,” outlines alleged cases of abuse in de facto detention camps throughout the country, at the hands of Iraqi security forces and other authorities.
“Information regarding such cases has been circulating within Iraq in the aftermath of the operation to liberate Mosul, but there hasn’t been a concerted effort to protect these women and girls. The Government of Iraq and all actors responsible for the protection of civilians must give this its due attention immediately,” said Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, RI senior advocate for women and girls.
Many displaced Iraqis – primarily women and children – suspected of ISIS sympathies or family ties have been forcibly relocated into camps where they are detained indefinitely, their documentation seized, and their freedom of movement severely restricted. RI interviewed dozens of humanitarian workers with knowledge of alleged violations occurring in camps in the Ninewa, Salaheddin, and Anbar governorates. The humanitarian workers report witnessing inhumane conditions and described in detail the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for essential aid items, such as food and access to health services.
“The right to humane treatment is at the core of international humanitarian law and all civilians in Iraq, regardless of their perceived or alleged affiliations, are entitled to access to safety, security, and humanitarian assistance,” Vigaud-Walsh concludes.
Read the full issue brief here.
Read the latest RI field report on internal displacement in Iraq here.
For interviews with Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, please contact Gail Chalef, senior communications officer, at (202) 540-7026 or (202) 290-8608.
After the liberation of Mosul from Islamic State (ISIS) occupation in July 2017, Refugees International (RI) traveled to Iraq to examine the specific challenges faced by women and girls in the aftermath of the military operation. Among the most urgent issues are the detention and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of Iraqi women and girls perceived or alleged to be affiliated with ISIS by Iraqi Security Forces and other Iraqi authorities.
The battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq is in its late stages, but in the aftermath of the conflict new challenges arise. There are 11 million people in Iraq who need humanitarian assistance. The original causes of their vulnerability—conflict and displacement—may be lessening, but their unmet daily needs remain.
Washington, D.C. (September 25, 2017) – Refugees International released a new report today examining the prospects for return of the three million people in Iraq displaced by the protracted battle against the Islamic State (ISIS). The report, Too Much Too Soon: Displaced Iraqis and the Push to Return Home, outlines the challenges of returning to towns and villages across Iraq that have been liberated from ISIS control. The report is based on a fact-finding mission to the northern and central regions of Iraq in July 2017.
“With the battle against ISIS in Iraq reaching its end stages, attention should now turn to the immediate future of the country,” said Daryl Grisgraber, Refugees International Senior Advocate and author of the report. “An essential pillar in rebuilding Iraq will be finding sustainable solutions for the 3.2 million people who currently remain internally displaced. Many of them want to return home, but the government of Iraq continues to struggle to create conditions for return that will allow people to do so in safety and dignity.”
The internal displacement of millions of Iraqis has been a long-standing issue in Iraq; some three million Iraqi men, women, and children have been newly displaced as a result of ISIS activity since 2014. The displaced Iraqis live in camps, in informal settlements, in rented accommodation, and in host communities throughout the country. The ten-year reconstruction plan for Iraq announced by Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi in late June 2017 includes a goal “to return all displaced persons to their places of origin.” In some locations, local officials have expressed eagerness to start that process. However, the Refugees International report underlines serious concerns about how, when, and where these returns can or should take place.
The Refugees International report finds that Iraqis most recently displaced by ISIS activity (who represent a majority of Iraq’s current displaced population) are returning home much too soon. Not only is physical safety a fundamental problem (many areas, especially the ones most recently taken from ISIS, are heavily contaminated with improvised explosive devices and mines), but there is also widespread fear of revenge and retribution killings by and of religious and political groups that perceive others to be their enemies. Moreover, potential returnees are sometimes unwelcome by security forces and local authorities who are unwilling to protect people they consider their opponents, or sympathizers with their opponents. Though some internally displaced persons (IDPs) are spontaneously returning even to unsafe, unprepared areas, others are being pressured to leave their current places of residence against their will. According to customary international law and universal human rights principles, IDPs must not be forced to return.
In addition, the RI report finds, these displaced individuals find basic necessities of daily life hard to come by – an issue of even greater concern when the IDPs return to once embattled towns and villages. Shelter is practically non-existent in some of the areas most damaged by ISIS and by the fight to rout its forces. Access to clean water is a challenge for both IDPs and returnees, and medical services and electricity are not readily available in many places. Earning money to pay for the materials and services crucial for returnees is hardly possible until the nascent reconstruction of Iraq begins in earnest.
In addition, as the focus in Iraq shifts from emergency response to longer-term reconstruction efforts, IDPs who remain displaced and those who return home to largely destroyed communities will continue to need humanitarian aid until the government of Iraq is in a better position to assist its own citizens. Though the humanitarian situation may appear less desperate as military activity wanes, many Iraqis are still critically vulnerable and in need of the support from aid agencies. Funding for humanitarian programming in Iraq must continue to be a priority even as Iraq’s reconstruction gets underway.
Read the full report here.
For interviews with Daryl Grisgraber, please contact Gail Chalef, Senior Communications Officer, at (202) 540-7026 or (202) 290-8608.
Six weeks ago, Refugees International traveled to Iraq to meet with and assess the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs) about returning home to cities and towns liberated from ISIS control. Mosul had just been declared liberated even though conflict continued in the west of the city, and already there was talk of who could go back, when, and to what. There was also plenty of discussion about who could not go back, right now or maybe ever.
This month marks the three-year anniversary of the withdrawal of an 11,000-strong Peshmerga force from Sinjar in northern Iraq. The withdrawal left Sinjar’s Yazidi minority community besieged by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters. For one displaced Yazidi family with whom I recently met in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, there is both reason to grieve and to celebrate. The head of family told me that dozens of extended family members were kidnapped by ISIS during the siege. But this anniversary also marks the first that his now 15-year-old daughter, Vian,* is home.
In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), a dusty camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) houses about 5,000 Iraqis, many of whom fled the Islamic State (ISIS) when the extremist group seized control of their villages in northern Iraq. In its attack on Sinjar during the summer of 2014, ISIS murdered or abducted thousands—and to this day, survivors do not know the fate of family members who disappeared in the ISIS assault. Many of the people who were able to avoid or escape the Sinjar massacre had come to Iraqi Kurdistan for safety.
The second half of 2016 has seen some changes in the humanitarian response to the 3.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq, particularly in the central governorates. With Ramadi and Fallujah liberated in the past year, fewer towns remained under siege, more people were able to leave dangerous areas, and a limited number of the displaced are even returning home. However, the situation in general for IDPs remains extremely worrisome.
While anticipation of the Mosul offensive continues to build – along with concern about the consequent displacement that could overwhelm nearby areas – the reality is that Mosul’s military offensive and displacement crisis started some time ago. In the past several months, more than 100,000 people have fled the areas around Qayyara and Shirqat, two towns taken by Iraqi fighting forces as part of the military approach to Mosul itself.
At its height in mid-2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) controlled more than 40 percent of Iraq. Now, a counter-offensive by the Iraqi Army, pro-government militias, and allied nations has pushed ISIS out of many areas it once held. This has given a glimmer of hope to Iraq’s 3.4 million internally displaced people (IDPs): after years of exile, they have a chance to return home. Refugees International visited a town in Anbar province where returning families spoke about the challenges of rebuilding their homes, their lives, and their community.
The huge number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq – and the possibility that by the end of the year there could be two million more – has recently recaptured some attention in the news. In early May, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, declared the humanitarian crisis in Iraq to be “one of the world’s worst”, and the Global Report on Internal Displacement 2016 from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre included the fact that over half of the global total of IDPs reside in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq alone.
Iraq has been the site of significant internal displacement for well over a decade. However, this displacement has increased dramatically over the last two years as the security situation in central and south Iraq has deteriorated. Today, there are 3.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq. They are living in rented accommodations, unfinished buildings, and makeshift camps, often without adequate food, water, or medical care, wondering when it might be safe to go home.