The rate of return for internally displaced and refugee families in Iraq have been rising steadily throughout 2008. Nowhere has the increase been more pronounced than in the capital, Baghdad, where close to 17,000 families – roughly 100,500 individuals – have returned as of October. As security improves, more families are finding their way back to Baghdad neighborhoods where less than a year ago violence was a regular occurrence.
On November 30, 2008, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) will launch the Returnee Assistance Center (RAC) in Baghdad. Under strategic guidance and on-going support from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Medical Corps will jointly manage the center’s operations. The RAC will provide vital registration, legal and protection assistance for families returning to Baghdad. Following completion of the official registration process at the center, families will be provided with access to essential government benefits and services including financial compensation, property restitution and protection monitoring.
“Complex issues such as displacement and return require strategic planning, concrete solutions and immediate action,” said MoDM Minister Dr. Abdul Samid Rahman Sultan. “The opening of this center in Karkh and the assistance it provides will make a valuable contribution to our goals of increasing accuracy in registration and ensuring greater transparency and accountability. This, in turn, will allow MoDM to more effectively assist Iraqi families and encourage further voluntary return.”
International Medical Corps’ support to MoDM for the RAC is just one component of a much larger project titled Sustainable Assistance to Returnees in Iraq, which promotes durable solutions to displacement through concerted activities that simultaneously target ministerial and community level participation. Funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the Returnee Assistance Center will provide immediate and longer term assistance to IDP and refugee returnees, including registration, protection, legal assistance and ministerial capacity building.
With over 4.5 million Iraqis displaced, whether as refugees or IDPs, International Medical Corps advocates dealing with this crisis through the establishment of a unified mechanism for returnee assistance in Iraq.
“We must build upon the success of the Returnee Assistance Center in Karkh. Returnees are not just limited to Baghdad, and they require support that continues after they return,” said Agron Ferati, International Medical Corps’ Country Director in Iraq. “The success of International Medical Corps’ work with the ministry and UNHCR hinges on our ability to establish a collective approach to meeting the immediate and long term needs of returnees. We remain committed to providing unified support, not just when people return, but afterwards, when communities are rebuilding their neighborhoods, families and lives.”