In 2019, the Iraqi government declared its intention to close all formal and informal internally displaced persons (IDP) settlements across the country and began a rapid and flawed campaign to send back IDPs to their areas of origin. As a result, many IDPs have been pushed to return despite destruction, lack of housing and livelihood opportunities, and the existence of security threats. Others have been secondarily displaced and forced to resettle elsewhere, sometimes in critical conditions with less access to services. Many Iraqis are at risk of protracted displacement, which causes cycles of vulnerability, impoverishment, and marginalization from which IDPs struggle to break free. Some groups among these IDPs are especially vulnerable, such as the elderly, the chronically ill, those belonging to ethnic or religious groups that have been historically marginalized, and females heading households without relatives or community support networks after losing their husbands during the war.

Those IDPs who wish to return home also face obstacles, and to this day many are blocked from relocating to their areas of origin by armed actors, local authorities, and communities because of a family member’s alleged affiliation with ISIS. Families perceived to be “ISIS-affiliated” face obstacles to accessing services and benefits, including obtaining security and civil documents allowing them to move freely across the country.

CIVIC’s policy brief, “Ignoring Iraq’s Most Vulnerable: The Plight of Displaced Persons”, looks at the challenges IDPs face in returning to their areas of origin and the dangers they face while they remain displaced. It assesses how bureaucratic requirements put in place by the  Government of Iraq (GOI) and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) are impacting civilians’ ability to return home, as well as how the stigma of being perceived to be affiliated with ISIS is creating further barriers to returns and reintegration.