01/05/2008, 00.00
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Red Crescent : 20 thousand Iraqi refugees return home in December alone

According to the humanitarian organisation since mid September over 45 thousand have returned home, largely from Syria. However the crises remains : Iraqi refugees continue to suffer unemployment, high rents and lack of access to schools and medical care, The UNHCR warns re-entry in Iraq is premature.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – According to the Red Crescent over 20 thousand Iraqi refugees left Syria to return home in September.  In a report issued by the Humanitarian Organisation the number of refugees who have chosen to return to their homeland since mid September amounts to 45,913. Of these, 38,736 returned to Baghdad the remainder to other parts of the country.  At the same time the number of internally displaced people has also decreased: in November there were almost 2.18 million compared to the 2.3 million in September.

The numbers provided by the Red Crescent (Islamic branch of the Red Cross) is far less than those provided by the Iraqi government which stated that over 60 thousand people had returned home from Syria and Jordan.  The data comes on the heels of a statement issued by the American forces in Iraq which speaks of a decline in violent attacks across the nation by over 62%, due to last year’s  surge in troop numbers, as well as the formation of numerous tribal groups in op position to al-Qaeda.

However the Red Crescent underlines that the situation of Iraqi refugees remains dramatic.  “They are suffering from many serious hardships such as lack of accommodation and high rentals, inadequate health services, a large number of students have left their studies while many displaced people have lost their jobs and it is hard for them to buy food or fuel,” the report said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 4.2 million Iraqis have been displaced since the US-led invasion in March 2003, of whom 750,000 went to Jordan, 1.4 million to Syria and about two million sought refuge elsewhere in Iraq. The UNHCR says it is proving difficult to determine exactly how many Iraqi refugees are returning home.  In a statement on its website, the United Nations explains that “Many areas are still considered unsafe and conditions are not conducive for return. There is a general lack of access to material, legal and physical safety and proper services, such as drinking water, sanitation, food, shelter, health services, education, access to land, recovery of property and employment opportunities”.


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