In the last weeks of October, tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their homes in Ninawa province.
Their return reflects the Iraqi authorities' determination to resolve the displacement crisis, despite the great challenges the province faces after its liberation from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), officials said.
Since ISIS seized control of the province in June 2014, Ninawa had seen successive waves of displacement, culminating with a massive wave of displacement during the military operations to liberate the province.
In late October, more than 37,000 IDPs returned to their homes in the province in two batches of 15,277 and 21,743, Ministry of Migration and Displacement media director Seif Sabah told Diyaruna.
They returned from al-Khazir and Hassan Sham camps in east Ninawa, and al-Jadaa, al-Madraj, Haj Ali and Hammam al-Alil camps in the south of the province, as well as Narkezliya camp in Dohuk province, he said.
Returnees took up residence in Mosul neighbourhoods such as al-Zanjili, al-Wahda, al-Intisar, al-Yarmouk, the Industrial district and 17 Tammuz, as well as areas outside the city such as Bashiqa, Zumar, Rabia, al-Qayyarah, Tel Afar, al-Mahlabiya, al-Kasak, Hammam al-Alil and Badush.
The ministry allocated minibuses and trucks to transport IDPs and their furniture back to their former homes, in co-ordination with the Joint Operations Command, and provided the returnees with food baskets, he added.
Strong desire to return
Iraqi MP for Ninawa Sajida Mohammed told Diyaruna residents have a strong desire to return to their homes in the province, regardless of the obstacles.
"Many of them would rather camp out in the rubble of their homes than remain in the IDP camps outside Mosul," she said.
Returnees have been working alongside civil society organisations and the local government to make their neighbourhoods fit for inhabitation, she added.
"The chief obstacle preventing the return of the remaining families is the extent of the destruction," she added, "especially in the west side of the city, which was severely damaged in the military operations to oust ISIS."
The remaining areas, which did not suffer much damage, are ready to receive returnees as soon as the security procedures are completed, she added.
Mohammed called on the security authorities to expedite the issuance of security permits to the remaining IDPs so they can return quickly to their homes.
But she also stressed the need for a careful check of the security-related information of every IDP to prevent ISIS fighters from attempting to infiltrate among the returnees.
Obstacles in the way
Ninawa provincial council member Daoud Jundi expressed concern over the many obstacles that could prevent the full resolution of the IDP file in the coming months, notably the lack of services in many of the liberated areas.
This could discourage the return of families to their homes, he said, noting that the onset of winter will exacerbate their difficult situation in the camps, where the weather is cold and services are scarce.
Obstacles that impede the return of IDPs include the rebuilding of the liberated areas and infrastructure, he added, explaining that IDPs will not return to their homes while electricity and water are lacking.
"The security issue also presents an obstacle, as many individuals suspected of belonging to ISIS have infiltrated among the IDPs and are living among them in the camps," he said.
Their personal information needs to be verified before they are allowed to return, he said, and this is delaying the return of many displaced families.
Security authorities also are preventing IDPs from returning until their areas are cleared of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and remnants of war and the rubble is removed, he added, especially in areas that suffered severe damage.