As of October 2020, an estimated 1,299,987 people are displaced in Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq, according to the IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM). Many have fled their homes due to conflict and are unable to return due to limited or no access to basic services, safe housing, education or jobs as well as issues around security in their areas of origin. As internally displaced camps across the governorates experience further consolidation or closure in 2020, it is important to provide information to support displaced persons who are able to consider returning home, with information around accessing safe and sustainable returns.
This article, with thanks to the Returns Working Group, provides some suggestions that returnees should consider before returning to their areas of origin. No one should force displaced people to return to their areas of origin. It should be a personal decision made without pressure. If you and your family are able thinking about returning but have not yet made up your mind, here are a few suggestions to consider before you leave:
1. Contact a local humanitarian organization
To support in your decision making, try to contact a local humanitarian organization who is working near you. They may be able to support you with providing information about your area of origin, how to return and what procedures you may need to follow. They may also be able to assist you with contacting mukhtars, government officials and community leaders in your area of origin to find out as much information as possible.
2. Consider the procedures and legal documents needed for your return
1- Depending on the area you are leaving from and the area you are returning to, you must contact local authorities to find out whether you need a security clearance upon departure and/or arriving.
2- Ensure the presence and/or re-establish of local government authorities, including local police in your area of origin.
3- It is a good idea to inform the local government in your area of origin that you have returned to your home.
4- Make sure you have all the documents for you and your family before returning, so that you can pass through the checkpoints freely.
5- If you have missing documents for you or your family, make sure that you have a security clearance that helps you pass through the checkpoints, before you leave.
6- The documents you may need include:
• Civil Status ID (national card) including children
• Residence card
• Iraqi nationality ID
• Death and birth certificate
• Marriage or divorce certificates
• The ration card.
3. Consider the security situation for your journey
- It is your decision what route you and your family take. To help you make that decision contact local authorities or humanitarian organizations in the area to make sure the road is safe and free from security risks including mines, and unexploded ordinance.
- Find out about the possibility of illegal checkpoints on the way to your home.
- Learn about the presence of military activities or armed elements on the way to the area.
4. Consider the security situation at your home region:
- Contact organizations working in your area, Mukhtar, and other people who have returned to find out: if the security situation in your area is stable and safe.
- Learn about the presence of military activities or armed elements in your area of origin.
- Ensure that the area, especially your home, is free from the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance.
5. Basic needs in your home area:
- Check whether you have access to basic services and materials in your area of origin, such as water, electricity, food, health care and the courts (to recover your home ownership or compensate for damaged or destroyed property).
- Make sure there are markets in your area of origin.
- Check if you can take your belongings with you (for example, your personal belongings - non-food)
- Check whether you will be able to reunite with your family.
- Decide if you can financially support your family in your home area.
- Humanitarian aid is provided free of charge, but there may be some fees for government services. Beware of fraudulent service providers.
6. Where to find help?
If you have any further questions or need more information you couldn't find in the article, you can directly contact the Simaet Bhatha team from Sunday to Thursday, 9:00am to 4:00pm, through the following platforms:
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