IOM Surveys Iraqi Migrants to Europe

Iraq - A new study by IOM,  “Migration Flows from Iraq to Europe,” explores the experiences of recent Iraqi migrants, with the goal of gaining insight into their personal profile, decision-making process, journey and future intentions.

The research, conducted in November and December 2015, was sponsored by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) under the project “Understanding complex migration flows from Iraq to Europe through movement tracking and awareness campaigns”.

All of the 473 interviewees departed Iraq in 2015 and were interviewed after arriving in Europe.  Respondents were identified using a “snowball” sampling technique, known as chain-referral. Migrants were identified and contacted thanks to the IOM field staff’s personal network of friends, family and acquaintances, and through the network of those who migrated.

Interviews were conducted via phone or Skype. Any information presented in the report refers to the sample only, and not to the entire Iraqi migrant population.

Questions on migrants’ profiles revealed that the respondents are 93 percent male and 7 percent female; the average age is 29. One third are married; two-thirds are single; two-thirds do not have dependents (children or others). A total of 18 percent reported themselves as “displaced” at the time of departure from Iraq.

More than half of the respondents (53 percent) were working at the time of departure from Iraq; however only half of these were employed full-time. More than two-thirds of respondents had a monthly income of USD 500 per month or less. Respondents have varying educational levels; 41 percent reported having university education, and 47 percent having secondary education.

In questions regarding preparation and organization of the journey, of the survey options provided, a total of 80 percent of respondents cited ‘no hope in the future’ as their primary reason for departure. Secondary reasons for departures for a significant number of respondents included general security concerns and unemployment.

Respondents said the main sources of information used to plan their journey were word of mouth (40 percent), social media (23 percent), and Internet (22 percent). Regarding the journey, the average cost was USD 6,000 per person – including transportation and living expenses. More than one-third of interviewees took a month or more to reach Europe.

Main countries of intended destination were Germany, Finland, Sweden, Austria and Belgium. The reasons for choosing the country of destination were the impression that it is ‘easier to get asylum,’ and ‘relatives/friends already living in the country.’ More than 200 respondents identified Germany as their intended destination. At the time of interview, 180 respondents were in Germany; other countries included Austria (72), Finland (55) Sweden (43) and Hungary (33).

When surveyed on return intentions, 67 percent said that they do not intend to return to Iraq, while 21 percent are waiting to decide, and 12 percent are planning to return. The vast majority (94 percent) believed that they fit asylum eligibility criteria and 92 percent reported having applied for asylum once they reached the country of destination. Only 12 percent had been granted refugee status at the time of interview, 56 percent were being processed, and 25 percent reported being rejected.

In 2015 IOM received an increased number of assistance requests from Iraqis in Europe to return to their home country. Through the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme, in coordination with Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement, airport authorities and IOM missions in host countries, IOM Iraq in 2015 provided support to nearly 3,500 Iraqis to return to Iraq from 14 European countries.

IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Lothar Weiss said: “Thanks to funding from DFID, this report provides valuable data to better understand the difficult experience of Iraqi migrants travelling to Europe. The reasons behind the enormous risk and expenses these Iraqi migrants incur provide important insights for IOM, humanitarian partners, government representatives, partners and donors, to develop more targeted information campaigns and responses to the migration crisis.”

To access the “Migration Flows from Iraq to Europe” report, please visit

The most recent IOM Iraq Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) Dataset, Dashboards, Dynamic Displacement Map and previous DTM products can be found at:

For further information please contact Sandra Black, IOM Iraq, Tel. +964 751 234 2550, Email: or Laura Nistri, Email: