Iraqi Refugees: Still There

Editor’s Note: The following chapter was originally published in the 2011-2012 edition of A Global Agenda: Issues Before the United Nations (United Nations Association of the USA).

Millions of Iraqis have fled their communities as a result of violence and insecurity in the eight years since the United States invaded Iraq. Together with most of those displaced by the Saddam Hussein regime, these Iraqis live in uncertain conditions throughout the Middle East.

The governments of the region have generally allowed them to remain but haven’t recognized them as refugees nor given them formal residency rights. Not yet persuaded that it’s safe to return to their country, they live in limbo. Some hope for resettlement to another country, some seek asylum in Europe.

But most are just waiting. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides some assistance to them and host governments, but agrees with the refugees that the time is not right to promote their large-scale return.

Patterns of displacement from Iraq are longstanding and complex. For years, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fled Saddam Hussein’s government as victims of persecution and violence. Most sought refuge in nearby countries, particularly Iran and Turkey, while others traveled to Europe.