Government to build a residential complex to house IDPs

The Iraqi government plans to build a residential complex 25km south of Baghdad to house people who have been squatting in abandoned government properties or land since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the government of former president Saddam Hussein.



“The residential complex will be built in Mada’in area and will include 5,000 residential units which will be distributed to the squatters,” Moyeen al-Kadhimi, Head of Baghdad’s Provincial Council, said.



Al-Kadhimi stressed that the government, which has clashed with the squatters in the past, would deal with them peacefully, taking into account their humanitarian needs.



Al-Kadhimi did not elaborate but another council official, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to discuss official plans before they were finalised, said that the council would be soliciting proposals from local and foreign constructions firms over the next two months.



The official added that discussions were still underway on how the residential units would be distributed and on what payment terms.



Delayed eviction



On 4 January, the Iraqi government announced that it was giving all squatters on government property – including land, houses, residential buildings and offices –60 days to leave or face legal action. In return, the government said it would give squatters between US$850 to$4,300 to find alternative accommodation.



However, later in January, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he was postponing the order until further notice as he was campaigning for the provincial elections, which were held on 31 January.



In the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, hundreds of homeless people scrambled to find somewhere to live. Many moved into abandoned government-owned property. Most of these buildings had been used by officials of Saddam’s government but were completely or partially damaged by the aerial bombardment of US-led coalition forces.



Squatters reacted positively to the government’s new housing initiative.



“Now we can let our minds rest,” said Ali Keytan Mikhlif who, along with this three sons and wife, has been squatting in an apartment in Baghdad’s central Salihiyah area, where senior military officers of Saddam’s elite Republican Guard used to live.



“I had a feeling that the government which we voted for in the last [2005] elections would not throw us out into the street with our families,” Mikhlif said.



sm/ar/ed