A Legacy of Displacement and Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq 20 Years after U.S. Invasion

Please see below statement from Refugees International Senior Advocate for the Middle East Jesse Marks:

“It has been two decades since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the country continues to experience a legacy of forced displacement and humanitarian crisis. Today, an estimated 1.2 million people across Iraq remain internally displaced with few prospects to safely return home. Likewise, hope of the millions of Iraqi refugees around the world who want to safely return home is fading. Meanwhile, new waves of violence and conflict in the country are displacing thousands more.

The humanitarian picture for internally displaced people inside Iraq remains bleak amid deteriorating social, political, and security conditions. People seeking to return to areas previously captured by the Islamic State – particularly the Yazidis and other minorities – have been deterred by the lack of shelter and infrastructure, lack of safety, impediments from local authorities (including armed militias), and resistance from local communities. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government continues to pursue the premature closure of the remaining displacement camps across the country, pressuring those remaining to return despite the lack of safe options to do so. The government must cease its closure of camps until conditions for a safe and dignified return are established.

The UN has begun transitioning its response in Iraq from a humanitarian response to a development response, creating concerns among NGOs over the potential for gaps to emerge in protection services for internally displaced Iraqis, particularly for women and children. This shift poses challenges for responding to continued and emerging displacement and protection needs. The UN must ensure that protection services remain available even as it transitions its response.

Refugees International calls on the United States to enhance its support to displaced Iraqis, including by increasing the number of dedicated resettlement billets for displaced Iraqis and increasing financial assistance to Iraqi civil society to support the local integration of returnees.

Without immediate action, displaced Iraqis stand to experience a worsening spiral of conflict and poverty.”

To schedule an interview, please contact Refugees International’s Vice President for Strategic Outreach Sarah Sheffer at ssheffer@refugeesinternational.org. 

Cover Photo: Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community are pictured at a camp for internally displaced people in Khanke, Iraq on January 20, 2023. Photo by SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images.