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Iraqi civilians transferred home from camps despite humanitarian concerns

Displaced Iraqis board a bus at camp for displaced people to take them home (AFP)

Date of publication: 28 August, 2019

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The Iraqi government's policy of returning displaced persons to their homes concerns humanitarian groups as their houses have often been destroyed and don't have access to basic services
Hundreds of Iraqi civilians, mostly women and children, were moved from a camp to their homes on Wednesday despite concerns by humanitarian groups over the conditions of their homes.

The civilians, originally from Hawija, had fled the fighting against the Islamic State group several years ago to Hamman al-Alil camp in Nineveh, around 150 km to the north.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IRAQ?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#IRAQ</a>: Hundreds of displaced Iraqis were transferred today from Hammam al-Alil camp in Nineweh to their hometown in Hawija, despite major concerns by humanitarian actors - via <a href="https://twitter.com/AFP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AFP</a></p>&mdash; Maya Gebeily (@GebeilyM) <a href="https://twitter.com/GebeilyM/status/1166673980129992706?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 28, 2019</a></blockquote>
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More than 500 people were taken back to Hawija in white buses bearing the logo of the ministry of transport, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

NRC's Iraq media coordinator Tom Peyre-Costa said the group was very concerned about the process as the displaced often had no homes to return to and feared retaliation from their communities for their perceived ties to IS.

"They are scared, and most families from Hawija leaving today are undocumented," he told AFP. "Going home without documents means they will not have access to anything - children won't be able to go to school, no access to health care, no food distribution."

Read also: Iraq forcibly returning displaced civilians to volatile areas

It is the policy of the Iraqi government to ensure civilians are sent home following the battles with the IS group, but many of the areas of origin remain destroyed and lack basic services.

Ali Khodr, the associate governor for displacement, said that more than 150 families, or around 550 individuals, would be taken back to Kirkuk province as part of the transfer.

"A few days ago, 35 families were returned to (the western province of) Anbar. We are working on returning the rest of the displaced to their provinces of origin," he told AFP.

More than 1.6 million people remain displaced in camps, temporary housing or unfinished structures across Iraq nearly two years after the country had declared that the Islamic State group had been defeated.

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