November 21, 2007


Better security sees Iraqi refugees flood home
Iraqi refugees
(Oliver August in Damascus and James Hider in Baghdad, 11/22/07, Times of London)

Iraqi refugees are returning home in dramatic numbers, concluding that security in Baghdad has been transformed. Thousands have left their refuge in Syria in recent months, according to some estimates.

The Iraqi Embassy is organising a secure mass convoy from Damascus to Baghdad on Monday for refugees who want to drive back. Embassy notices went up around the Syrian capital yesterday, offering free bus and train rides home.

Saida Zaynab, the Damascus neighbourhoods once dominated by many of the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, is almost deserted. Apartment prices are plummeting and once-crowded shops and buses are half empty.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was scrambling to assess the transformation last night. An interim report is expected today. “There is a large movement of people going back to Iraq. We are doing rapid research on this,” a spokesman said.

The downside is that it relaxes pressure on Syria.

Iraqi refugees 'returning home' (Al Jazeera, 11/22/07)

About 1,600 Iraqis who fled the violence in their country are returning home every day, according to Abdul Samad Sultan, the country's displacement and migration minister.

Brigadier-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, interior minister spokesman, said most refugees were returning from Syria.

Syria has the highest number of Iraqi refugees in the region and says their influx has strained its education, health and housing systems, pushing the government to tighten visa requirements and to call for international assistance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 21, 2007 7:58 AM
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