While Daesh's presence continues to linger, the Iraqi government is shutting down the remaining IDP camps. But no work has been done to ensure their safe repatriation as they fear retribution for the crimes they haven’t committed.
Ever since Daesh took control of large parts of Iraq in 2014 and then lost power city by city, province by province as a result of a global campaign against the terror group, at least six million Iraqis have left their homes under duress. They have been living in squalid camps built for internally displaced persons, or IDPs in various parts of the country.
With the new government order, many of them have already become homeless for the second time as the Iraqi government began evacuating the residents of the last remaining camps.
Three years after the country declared territorial defeat of Daesh, Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi, who came to power after the popular protests toppled the previous government, promised to implement policy aimed at integrating the displaced Iraqis into the society.
But no plan to prevent reprisal attacks on them or to facilitate a smooth return to homes have been announced yet.
Now asked to leave with short notice, the residents of the evacuated camps are struggling to find a place to sleep, a situation many humanitarian organisations find alarming.
Security forces already began evacuating Jeddah 5 camp that sheltered 7,000 people as of Monday, telling the displaced people that they would be kicked out if they did not leave on their own, the Washington Post reported the camp residents as saying on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Iraq's Ministry of Migration, Hassan al-Allaf, however, denied the reports of IDPs being forced out of the camps. He told the Washington Post that the departures from the camp were rather consensual.
For many IDPs, however, the prospect of returning to their original homes after six years of gruelling conflict is full of obstacles. They are facing a position where they have either no place to return to or exposed to serious retributions.
“Even if the house is registered under my name, I cannot have it. The tribal leaders have the ultimate power," Kutayba, a woman who was displaced from Mosul, told NRC Middle East last year. The organisation says nine percent of women they surveyed in Iraq said their property was occupied by community or tribal leaders, militias and security forces.
But that’s not the only concern. The residents of the camps have long feared that they may be perceived as the sympathisers of Daesh, the terror group that once caused their departure from their homes.
Surviving Daesh's rule, the displaced Iraqis are vulnerable to tribal revenge since many of them have or had a relative associated with Daesh. Shiite tribesmen and militias who fought the group says the return of the displaced would cause bloodshed. With Daesh attacks showing that it has never been fully defeated, the wounds and the resentment in the country are still fresh.
“Those men, those women, they’re all the same. If they even try to come back here, you’ll see a massacre,” a villager told WP while another said many families could have Daesh ideology even though not everyone not all displaced families are terrorists.
A new generation of stateless Iraqi kids also have never had a home to return to in the first place. They don’t have birth certificates, which makes their families’ return even harder. Many families that don’t have legal documents are also likely to be deprived from state services.
More than a dozen displacement camps in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq still shelters 182,000 people.