UN criticizes Iraq’s hasty closing of camp for displaced


Irabil (AP) — The United Nations expressed concern Wednesday over the Iraqi authorities’ swift closure this week of a displacement camp that had housed more than 300 families with alleged ties to the militant Islamic State group.

The U.N. office in Baghdad said in a statement that the closure the previous day of the camp known as Jadah 5 in the town of Qayyarah in the country’s north was done “without adequate notification or preparation.”

Aid workers, who had also criticized the closure as hasty and chaotic, said authorities had notified camp residents on Monday that they had to leave by Wednesday — a day before the beginning of the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that follows the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Initially, the migration and displacement ministry had set a closure deadline for May. Jadah 5 was one of the last remaining camps for the displaced in Iraq, which still has some where 1.2 million people internally displaced after years of conflict.

Aid groups have pushed back against their closures, fearing that vulnerable families, including many women and children, would struggle to integrate in their hometowns and would be stigmatized for their perceived or real affiliation with IS militants. Camp residents had said they fear violence from militias and tribes if they go back to their towns of origin.

“The humanitarian community is concerned by the impact of the closure of the camp,” the U.N. office said and reiterated the U.N.’s long and principled support for “voluntary, informed, safe and dignified return of all” internally displaced persons.

Ali Abbas, a spokesman for the ministry, said that each family was given 1,500,000 Iraqi dinars (about $1,030) to find new housing. He did not why the deadline was pushed up.

Iraqi authorities in late 2020 began a push to close all displacement camps across the country, hoping it would boost reconstruction efforts that have lagged, years after the defeat of IS.

Most camps have since been closed, except for those in Iraq’s northern, semi-autonomous Kurdish region and also Jadah 1 in Qayyarah, which houses Iraqi detainees with IS ties who were formerly held in neighboring Syria’s al-Hol camp.

International organizations have cited rampant violence and lawlessness in al-Hol and called for countries with citizens housed there to repatriate them.

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