Development of a National Policy on Displacement in Iraq

Islamic State, Disputed Territory and Ethno-religious Diversity:

An Opportunity for the Development of Iraq’s National Policy on Displacement


The contemporary displacement landscape in Iraq is both problematic and unique. The needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq are many, particularly as protracted displacement becomes entrenched as the norm rather than the exception. However, minorities originating from the so called ‘Disputed Territories’ and perceived Islamic State (IS)-affiliates represent two of the most vulnerable groups of IDPs in Iraq. Iraqi authorities currently have a real opportunity to set a positive precedent for IDP protection by formulating pragmatic durable solutions which incorporate non-discriminatory protection provisions, and which take a preventative approach to future displacement.

This policy paper analyses the contemporary displacement context of Iraq, characterized as it is by securitization of Sunni IDPs and returnees, as well as ongoing conflict and coercion within the Disputed Territories. By examining current protection issues against Iraq’s 2008 National Policy on Displacement, this paper identifies protection gaps within Iraq’s response to displacement, before drawing on the African Union’s Kampala Convention in order to make recommendations for an updated version of the National Policy on Displacement. These recommendations will ensure that a 2020 National Policy on Displacement will be relevant to the contemporary protection needs of Iraq’s most vulnerable IDPs, whilst also acting to prevent further conflict and displacement.

Summary Recommendations

Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdistan Authorities:

  • The Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration (IMDM) should rewrite the National Policy on Displacement, and in doing so must include perceived IS-affiliates, minorities and IDPs originating from, or resettled in the Disputed Territories, under a definition of vulnerable IDPs in need of special protection.
  • The IMDM, through cooperation with relevant line ministries, local government, international and national stakeholders, should establish working groups (including in the KRI) on the protection of IDPs who are perceived IS-affiliates.
  • Both the Iraqi and Kurdistan Region’s governments should recognise their responsibility to prevent marginalization of any social groups, and as such should strive to include marginalized groups, including perceived IS-affiliates and minorities in consultations on durable solutions and peacebuilding policies.
  • Both the Iraqi and Kurdistan Region’s governments should, in consultation with an impartial international stakeholder such as UNOCHA, produce a framework for shared security and cooperation in the Disputed Territories. This framework should have human rights and IDP protection at its core.
  • The IMDM should emphasize voluntary and assisted nature of durable solutions in a revised 2020 national policy on displacement. The Ministry provide training on durable solutions and the rights of IDPs to all relevant government staff, affiliated armed forces and militias, as well as police and security forces.
  • When rewriting the national policy on displacement, the IMDM should include responsibilities of armed non-state actors, state affiliated militias, and other non-state actors with regard to prevention of displacement and adherence to human rights and humanitarian law. Criminal responsibility should be clearly outlined in the same policy.
  • The IMDM should convene a round-table of experts in IDP and refugee protection to help inform formulation of a participatory framework for durable solutions.
  • The IMDM should provide comprehensive training on the rewritten 2020 national policy on displacement to relevant line ministries as a matter of urgency.
  • The IMDM, with the support of international stakeholders, should push the Council of Representatives to pass the rewritten policy into national law, thereby rendering it legally binding.
  • Regional leads should be established by the IMDM in order to decentralize implementation of the rewritten policy. The Ministry should coordinate and monitor implementation to ensure protection measures are adhered to, but a significant measure of autonomy should be afforded to regional leads.

International Community / International Stakeholders

  • The international community should earmark funding to address mental health in Iraq on a long-term basis. Funding provision for accredited training of mental health professionals within Iraq would be a sustainable method of approaching this.
  • The international community and stakeholders must take the lead in raising funds and liaising with Iraqi and Kurdish authorities in order to provide services, infrastructure and livelihood opportunities to host communities and communities of return. These services and opportunities should be accessible to the host community as well as IDPs and refugees.

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About MERI:  The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region.  Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.

MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum)

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