In January 2008, the International Rescue Committee established a Commission on Iraqi Refugees to investigate the situation of Iraqis displaced by the conflict there and to call attention to their plight. At the end of 2009, the commission returned to the region only to realize that the needs of displaced Iraqis have become more acute. Their savings have been depleted, and international interest and assistance have diminished.
Iraqis who fled from their homes because of the conflict are refugees if they went abroad or internally displaced persons if they stayed in Iraq. But whichever group they belong to, they are still afraid to return to their homes. They cite insecurity, lack of access to housing and services, scarce job opportunities, ongoing criminality and persecution, and mistrust of local government. (The most recent IRC report on Iraqi refugees is available here.)
Some refugees living outside Iraq will return when conditions improve; others have decided they will never go back because they belong to persecuted minorities or because they have reason to believe they would suffer or be killed upon return. At present, the structures and basic services that could allow a normal and sustainable reintegration are not in place, and it will take time for them to be established.
In December 2009, I visited Iraqi refugees in Amman, Jordan (my fifth such visit to the Middle East over the last three years), and photographed their everyday lives.
Click here for a slide show of Iraqi refugees in Jordan.