Sunday, August 24, 2008
Iraq’s Displacement and Migration Committee Criticizes Maliki’s Refugee Plan
France 24 TV reports on Iraqi refugees from Egypt returning to Baghdad
On August 20, the deputy head of Iraq’s Migration and Displacement Committee in parliament criticized the government’s refugee program. During most of the summer in fact, the committee has been one of the harshest critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s attempt to return Iraq’s displaced.
The Deputy head of the Migration and Displacement Committee Basim al-Husseini of the Shiite Fadhila Party, said that Iraq’s recent returnees were not coming back voluntarily. Instead he claimed that they were returning because they had no choice with their savings disappearing. He also criticized the Maliki government for not providing security for returnees, especially in areas of Baghdad that are now dominated by a single sect. Husseini said the government needed to provide more aid, and to pay compensation to families that have had their property damaged during the war. Finally, he said the recent return of Iraqis from Egypt was a public relations event by Baghdad.
Husseini’s comments echo those of the head of the committee, Abdel Kahliq Zanganah of the Kurdish alliance. Beginning this summer, Zanganah began complaining that Maliki was not committing enough resources to the displaced. On June 1, the committee head said that what the government had offered to the displaced so far had been inadequate, and that they had to especially help those that couldn’t return to their original homes. He followed that by saying that the government hadn’t listened to his calls for more assistance. In July, he continued his critique by saying that refugees should not return until Baghdad offered more help. He also noted that while parliament had voted to suspend evictions of squatters, they continued across the country. By August, as the government ordered all squatters to leave public owned buildings, Zanganah said they couldn’t be forced out without being provided alternate housing.
The head of the Displacement Committee and his deputy have consistently pointed out the many shortcomings of the government’s displaced program. Each month this summer, Baghdad has announced a new element of its plan to return refugees and remove squatters. The initiative mostly revolves around cash payments, but the Migration and Displacement Committee has consistently pointed out that the amounts are not enough. When the government began ordering squatters out, the Committee noted that they could not just be put out on the streets. They needed housing as well. Last, as the government shuttled two plane loads of Iraqis to Baghdad from Egypt, Husseini rightly pointed out that it was a government photo opportunity as they flew in on Maliki’s private airplane, and walked down the ramp carrying Iraqi flags to photos and TV cameras. The Prime Minister is looking towards his refugee plan as another attempt to exert control and improve his image as the leader of the country. The fact that almost one in five Iraqis has left their homes points to how little the government could protect its citizenry. Maliki is hoping that most if not all of Iraq’s refugees will take up his offers of cash and return. So far, only a small trickle have come back, because as Zanganah and Husseini have stated over and over, the government is lacking in depth planning for what to do after people come back or squatters are forced out other than offering money, which is probably too small to meet their needs.
Adas, Basil, “More than 11,000 displaced families return to Baghdad,” Gulf News, 8/4/08
Alsumaria, “Tens of Iraqi displaced families return home,” 8/12/08
Fadel, Leila, “Squatters in Iraqi buildings fear they’ll soon be on the street,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/4/08
IRIN, “Internally displaced Iraqis demand government return them home,” 6/16/08
Voices of Iraq, “The government ignores displaced people – lawmaker,” 8/20/08
- “Lack of services, financial support make life difficult for returnees,” 7/31/08
- “MP criticizes govt. on displaced measures,” 6/1/08