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IRAQ: More government money for IDPs, refugees

BAGHDAD, 14 February 2008 (IRIN) - The government has earmarked US$40 million to help ease the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Iraqi refugees in other countries, its spokesman said on 13 February.

“This amount will be spent to help Iraqis who have ended up as displaced families inside Iraq or refugees in other countries,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

“This is only an initial help as the government is committed to supporting its citizens to overcome harsh conditions,” al-Dabbagh said.

“The government is also determined to remove all the obstacles to enable displaced families and refugees to return to their homes by offering an acceptable security level in all Iraq,” the statement added.

Iraq’s displacement problem dates back nearly 25 years and is the result of some of Saddam Hussein’s policies, and three wars - the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, the first Gulf War of 1991 and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled Saddam.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 4.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes during this period - most since 2003. Of these, some 2.2 million are displaced internally, and two million have fled to neighbouring states, mostly Syria and Jordan.

Oil money

On 9 February the parliament’s Displacement and Migration Committee demanded a comprehensive, long-term government policy and budget to tackle the problem.

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“We believe that occasional financial support given by the government [and] national and international organisations is not enough to solve this problem,” said member of parliament Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, the committee chairman.

“So the government has to adopt a fixed, clear and comprehensive policy that leads to an assigned budget, as this problem is unlikely to be solved in months or even years,” Zankana told IRIN.

Zankana proposed that the government take advantage of an increase in national oil output and soaring world oil prices to earmark a percentage of oil revenues as aid for the displaced.

“We propose 3-5 percent of national oil revenues be allocated to this problem as they [displaced families] have become not only a burden on the Iraqi government but on all host countries as well,” he said.

Call for government to play greater role

Basil al-Azawi, chairman of the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises (ICCSE), a coalition of over 1,000 Iraqi non-governmental organisations (NGOs), said expenditure on IDPs and refugees should be reorganised.

"No financial support - whether from the government or international organisations - can meet the real needs of these families," al-Azawi told IRIN.

"In addition to dealing with the main reason behind this problem, which is a politically-motivated one, the government should widen its support and shoulder the majority of the responsibility, as… it has caused this displacement," al-Azawi said.

"There is something bigger than offering rice, sugar and other items to these families. The government should get other ministries involved in this crisis such as the health and education ministries," he said.

"Mobile clinics are badly needed for these families as most of them live in camps or can't afford to travel and pay for treatment. The Education Ministry has to make sure that these families' children are not out of school," he added.

sm/ar/cb

Theme (s): Aid Policy, Governance, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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