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2009 | 23 | 7-28

Article title

NO RETURN? THE IRAQI REFUGEE CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST (Bez powrotu? Kryzys uchodzców irackich na Bliskim Wschodzie)


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The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 rendered that country a field on which a five-year battle was fought out between the coalition armies, government forces, the resistance movement, terrorist groups and the fighting wings of the political parties. The brute acts of violence exercised against the civilian population living in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces brought about the deaths of at least one hundred thousand people and led to one of the largest waves of refugees and internal refugees in recent years. Between 2003 and 2008, as many as 2.7 million people, representing 10% of the Iraqi population, fled their homes; of these, approximately 2 million Iraqis crossed beyond the borders of their country. The number of internal refugees remaining in Iraq is comparable with the number in Darfur and we may indeed recognise that this is a country which has seen one of the contemporary world's greatest humanitarian crises. The article analyses the factors which forced almost 3 million Iraqis to flee their homes; it also presents both the refugees' living conditions in adjacent countries, particularly Syria and Jordan, and the impact of the situation on those countries. In addition to the civil war and the wave of brutal violence against the civilian population, the escape from Iraq was driven not only by the country's dramatic economic and humanitarian situation, but also by the laws introduced by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and directed against members of the Baath party. The analysis of the Iraqi refugees' living conditions focuses on their human and material situation, since having spent many years abroad with no permanent source of income has forced hundreds of thousands of the refugees below the poverty line. The final section of the article deals with the prospects of the Iraqis returning to their homeland. The author demonstrates that a mass return to Iraq remains out of the question until such time as the Baghdad government succeeds in putting a stop to the waves of abductions, murders and lawlessness, eliminating the myriad armed groups, and lifting the infrastructure, education and health care out of their current state of collapse.



  • Wojciech Wilk, Biuro Wysokiego Komisarza ONZ ds. Uchodzców (UNHCR) (for postal address contact the journal editor)


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