Nearly 100,000 displaced Iraqis return to communities last month: IOM
Xinhua News Agency
GENEVA, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Nearly 100,000 displaced Iraqis have returned to their communities in the last month, despite intensified fighting in some areas, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday here.
With Iraq's military retaking some areas from Islamic State (IS) fighters, IOM provided the figures and identified locations of significant returns, which are occurring in parallel to continued displacement of civilians who flee the fighting.
As military operations to retake Mosul intensify, there is concern that these will again displace tens of thousands of people. After four months of combat, more than 160,000 individuals are currently categorized as "displaced," according to IOM.
"What we know right now is that the area around Mosul in Ninewa Governorate, principally, 160,000 people are considered to be displaced, in need of shelter, in need of our support. However, the total number in four months through this conflict has been over 217,000," IOM spokesperson Joel Millman told journalists in Geneva.
Millman said that "there is concern that the hardest fighting is about to begin, we know that it has been difficult for people to leave Mosul. Sometimes it is just too much shooting, there is a problem with bridges to get out of the city. There were five bridges originally, now I believe they are non-operational."
"We managed the best we can, we are building camps all the time, we are preparing. Actually the numbers were lower than we thought they would be. We are always worried about a big surge coming," Millman said.
Among the challenges faced by returnees are security regarding the presence of militias, risks of unexploded ordinance, and the destruction of infrastructure, including housing and private property.
Overall, an estimated 3 million people have been displaced in fighting in Iraq since January 2014, and nearly 1.5 million have returned to their communities in the same time period. Enditem