Parliament demands financial help for IDPs, refugees

A parliamentary committee on displacement and migration demanded the Iraqi government allot US$4 billion in next year's budget to meet the needs of more than four million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.

"We asked the government last year to allocate 3 to 5 percent of the oil revenues in the 2008 budget to cover the needs of IDPs and refugees as they represent a big segment of the Iraqi people and are going through harsh conditions," Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, a lawmaker and head of parliament's displacement and migration committee, told IRIN on 24 September.

"But unfortunately this call was ignored," Zankana said.

"A few months ago, we appealed for $2 billion to be allotted in the $21 billion complementary budget to the 2008 budget for the same purpose, but the government only allotted about $200 million," Zankana said. Iraq's 2008 budget was $70 billion.

"Those people [IDPs and refugees] are Iraqis like any others and both the parliament and the government have commitments according to the constitution and international accords to protect and help them," he added.

Zankana said such allocation was urgently needed as the situation faced by IDPs and refugees "is not likely to be solved in the coming one or two years".

In a statement issued on 17 September, the spokesman for Iraq's Finance Ministry, Adnan Abdul-Rahman, said the country's 2009 budget would reach a record $78.88 billion.

Abdul-Rahman added that the budget, which was based on an average oil price of $80 a barrel next year, would be divided between $60.26 billion in operational expenses and the balance allotted to investment and improvements in infrastructure.

The budget has been submitted to Cabinet.

Zankana said no more than 20,000 families, about 120,000 individuals, had returned to their homes so far and about half of them were in Baghdad.
Conditions far from normal

But conditions were still far from normal for many of the returnees.

"Some of these families did not return to their provinces or areas as they were forced back due to tightened visa and residency measures in neighbouring countries and they have ended up in places other than their insecure areas [of origin]," he said.

"And some of them found their houses and properties damaged as they were occupied either by militants or other displaced families while others faced the same threats from the same militants in their areas when they came back," he added.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 4.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Of these, about 2.2 million are living as refugees in neighbouring countries - mostly in Syria and Jordan - while the remainder are IDPs.