Data from IOM teams, which have monitored Christian displacement since the October 2010 attack on the Saidat al-Najat church in Baghdad in which 58 people were killed, shows a marked decrease in the number of these displaced families across the four northern governorates of Dahuk, Erbil, Ninewa and Sulaymaniyah from over 1,350 a year ago to under 500 at the end of last month.
|Displacement of Christians to the North of Iraq, 31 January 2012|
The report cites insecurity in Northern Iraq – an area previously regarded as safe for religious minorities – as a main cause. Christians in Mosul have repeatedly been threatened and targeted for violence. In Dahuk, Islamist rioters and arsonists have targeted Christian-owned properties, and there has been a recent spate of kidnappings of Christians in the town of Ainkawa.
Displaced Christian families have therefore been forced to choose between remaining in the northern governorates, returning to even more insecure places of origin in the rest of the country, or emigrating to Turkey, Jordan or, in some cases, Syria. (UNHCR Turkey reported a significant increase in Iraqi registrations in 2011, with approximately 1,700 of newly registered Iraqis being Christian).
The report is an update of emergency assessments conducted in the immediate aftermath of the October 31, 2010 bombing and attacks on Christians. These assessments showed that Christians faced numerous challenges that would impact their ability to successfully integrate. Many Christians displaced from Baghdad were unable to sell their homes for a fair price to support themselves in their areas of displacement, where rents for apartments and houses have in some cases tripled over the past year.
According to IOM's earlier emergency assessments of these newly displaced Christian families, a third of displaced families were living with host families or relatives and 57 per cent were living in rented accommodation.
Those who share accommodation with relatives often live in over-crowded homes, while those who live in rented accommodation are especially vulnerable to secondary displacement due to rising costs. As displaced families left monasteries, churches and host family homes to seek more permanent shelter over the course of 2011, their inability to gain sustainable livelihoods and affordable housing drove many to emigrate or return to their places of origin.
In addition to the strain of high rent prices and lack of employment, many displaced families were unable to send their children to school due to language barriers or because they were not able to transfer their registration.
IOM, in addition to monitoring the situation of displaced Christian families has also, with its humanitarian partners, delivered essential non-food relief items to some 600 families in the four northern governorates in 2010 and 2011.
For further information, please contact:
Keegan de Lancie
Tel: +962 6 565 9660