The Iraqi government on Friday (April 20th) announced it has closed down 20 camps that had housed internally displaced persons (IDPs) now that the families who resided there have returned to their original homes.
The return of families displaced as a result of the 2014 "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) incursion is a strategic goal for Iraq, the government said.
To ensure this is accomplished, the authorities seek to overcome all obstacles to the return of IDPs, primarily by restoring the damaged infrastructure in liberated areas.
"We have closed down 20 camps, most of them in Baghdad and in Anbar and Salaheddine provinces," said Ali Abbas Jahakeer of the Ministry of Migration and Displacement.
The camps were shut down after all the families living there were returned to their homes in liberated cities, following efforts to clear these areas of explosive remnants of war and restore basic services, he told Diyaruna.
The ministry is preparing to close down five more camps, he said, and is "planning to merge some of the camps scattered among different provinces to facilitate their management and the provision of housing services".
There have been a total of 125 displacement camps, most of them in Ninawa province, Jahakeer said.
Several liberated areas, especially those in western Mosul, are still not ready in terms of services, he said, and as most of the homes in those areas have been destroyed.
Caring for the displaced population
The Ministry of Migration and Displacement bears the responsibility for hosting displaced families in the camps by providing them with food, housing supplies and health care and education services, Jahakeer said.
"When we are able to return these families, we move them from the camps to their areas of residence in co-ordination with the Transport Ministry," he said.
The ministry provides them with help and support as they resettle in their original areas and pick up the threads of their daily life, he added.
According to the ministry's most recent statistics, the rate of returning IDPs stands at 57%, Jahakeer said, noting that in February the ministry said about 2.6 million of the nearly five million IDPs have returned to their homes.
The return process "continues at a high pace, especially in the provinces of Anbar and Ninawa", he said.
Iraq seeks to return as many IDPs as possible to their homes before the country's general elections, which are scheduled for May 12th.
The authorities are working to ensure IDPs do not lose their right to vote, Jahakeer said, and have "submitted to the Electoral Commission the names of 250,000 eligible voters who are still living in camps".
These lists have been prepared in order to "issue voter cards for the IDPs to allow them to participate in the elections", he said.