Operation: Opération: Iraq



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
561,243 IDPs, returnees and refugees received cash assistance, including for COVID-19
292,970 medical consultations were provided to Syrian refugees through camp-based primary health care centres (PHCCs) supported by UNHCR
186,100 people of concern received core relief items
10,747 IDPs and refugees were supported through gender-based violence (GBV) interventions
2021 planning figures
118,375 people of concern will benefit from legal assistance 
80,165 people of concern will obtain civil status registration or documentation 
68,749 refugee and IDP households will receive cash assistance
 8,263  reported gender-based violence incidents for which survivors will receive psychosocial counselling

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2020 1,833,998
2019 2,180,062
2018 3,092,425


[["Refugees",270392],["Asylum-seekers",12670],["IDPs",1224108],["Returned IDPs",278065],["Returned refugees",1505],["Stateless",47253],["Others of concern",5]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[546.94595405,557.0937608659999,559.82611683,602.477448437,523.64381787,420.90470683000007],"expenditure":[338.02568545,252.37669675,213.92686105,203.02508774,194.30872383,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[116.48767369,137.52939031,135.89173072,185.67386308000002,194.77846032,175.18513030000003],"p2":[0.80424081,0.623739,0.307821,0.46577978999999997,0.93430746,1.283073],"p3":[26.70785472,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[402.94618483,418.94063155599997,423.62656511,416.337805567,327.93105009,244.43650353]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[98.77158239,78.07126444,72.24820125,72.21031726000001,85.18860081999999,null],"p2":[0.30823717,0.26725107,0.23696317,0.26995740999999995,0.6867843,null],"p3":[1.89021959,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[237.0556463,174.03818124,141.44169663,130.54481307,108.43333870999999,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

In 2020, Iraq continued to face political and security challenges. An interim Prime Minister was appointed in May, following months of mass demonstrations, but political division, civil unrest and security threats, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and a decline in oil prices, exacerbated Iraq's economic crisis. The Government of Iraq is planning to hold parliamentary elections in October 2021.

In October, the Government decided to close 15 IDP camps or informal sites, leaving only three IDP camps operating in Federal Iraq by the end of the year. Thousands of people—the majority women and children—moved back to their area of origin while others found themselves in a situation of secondary displacement.

The draft refugee law designed to provide a legal framework for refugees and asylum seekers was rejected by the Council of Representatives in December 2020. UNHCR had provided advice during the process of the draft formulation, in line with international refugee protection standards, and will continue advocating for the endorsement of the law.

Meanwhile, the health and socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated protection risks for people of concern to UNHCR, pushing many families to resort to negative coping mechanisms such as child labour, decreased food intake and indebtedness. UNHCR adapted to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on movement by introducing remote or hybrid working methods to ensure its assistance could continue.

Population trends

At the end of 2020, 1,224,108 Iraqis remained internally displaced, a 13% decline, while the number of returnees since 2014 stood at 4.8 million individuals. Most people who were uprooted in 2020 had already been forcibly displaced, with 111,523 secondary displacements during the year against 25,236 new displacements. 74% of IDPs were housed in private settings, such as rented accommodation and host families, while 9% lived in critical shelters and the remainder resided in the 30 IDP camps across Iraq.
A total of 270,392 refugees and 12,670 asylum-seekers were registered in Iraq: 242,163 Syrians and 40,899 of other nationalities (mainly Turkish, Iranian, Palestinian, and Sudanese). Of the total refugee population in Iraq, 48% were female, 2.3% were persons with disabilities, and 1.3% were older persons. Over 90% of Syrian refugees lived in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, 40% of them in 10 refugee camps.

There were an estimated 47,253 persons at risk of statelessness in the country at the end of 2020.

Key achievements

  • UNHCR maintained 36 community centres and reached over 110,000 refugees through awareness-raising campaigns and community engagement activities.
  • As part of its peaceful co-existence and socio-economic inclusion efforts, UNHCR carried out 22 quick impact projects and one area-based project benefitting IDPs, host community members and refugees. These projects included the renovation and rehabilitation of health and community centres, and the construction of water supply systems.
  • UNHCR procured 23 sets of intensive care unit (ICU) equipment consisting of ventilators, electric beds, monitors, nebulizers, syringe pumps, infusion and suction pumps, and oxygen regulators for COVID-19 hospitals in seven governorates.
  • In 2020, a total of 187,260 refugees were verified remotely and through the hybrid modalities by UNHCR registration staff.

Unmet needs

  • Registration and identity management were largely limited to remote activities due to COVID-19 related restrictions, affecting biometric enrolment and document issuance.
  • Access to civil documentation remained a challenge for thousands of IDPs and returnees.
  • Although referral pathways are in place, substantial gaps remain in tackling gender-based violence and assistance for children in need of specialized interventions, including those in need of specialized medical and mental health support and those living with disabilities, especially in urban areas.
  • Despite continuous advocacy with the Government, no agreement has been reached to conduct a quantitative data collection of the number of stateless persons in the country.

Working environment

In Iraq, security conditions and law and order improved but the continued presence of extremist elements conducting asymmetric attacks continues to pose challenges. In late 2019, sustained demonstrations in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq erupted and further disrupted access for humanitarian interventions. However, the impact on longer-term programming remains to be seen. Prior to this, Iraq was in a phase more conducive to returns and humanitarian access, transitioning gradually from an emergency response to a longer-term development approach.
Protection risks for displaced populations remain acute, with many IDP and returnee families suffering from disproportionate restrictions on access to safety and freedom of movement, confiscation of documents, forced encampment, detention, forced evictions and increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. The Government policy of camp consolidation and closure has resulted in forced returns and evictions, leading to secondary displacement.
Following the beginning of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in north-east Syria in October 2019, Iraq received an influx of Syrian refugees (15,000 by mid-November). The number of new arrivals is expected to continue over the next six months at a slow but steady pace. No major changes in other refugee and asylum-seeker populations is expected, given limited opportunities for durable solutions. For IDPs, with a majority of those in camps in 2019 expected to have returned, and with the significant challenges in identifying solutions, no significant returns are expected in 2020, with some 1.1 million IDPs remaining displaced.
In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Syrian refugees can access territory; basic services, including health and education; and documentation. The result is a generally favourable protection environment. UNHCR supports collaboration between the Government of Iraq (GoI) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities on registration of refugees and asylum-seekers, which will regularize their presence in Iraq, protect them from refoulement and improve access to services. Negotiations for the Permanent Committee of the Ministry of Interior (PC-MoI) to begin the registration of Syrian refugees in the KR-I are ongoing.
In 2020, UNHCR will continue its partnership with the governmental authorities, NGOs and UN organizations. By enhancing its collaboration with development actors, it will ensure the systematic inclusion of people of concern into national development plans and development-oriented programmes. UNHCR will strengthen its partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, and with the World Bank, UN-HABITAT, ILO and UNDP. UNHCR will continue to lead and coordinate the national-level Protection, Camp Coordination and Camp Management, Shelter and Non-food Item clusters for the IDP response, as well as the inter-agency response for Syrian refugees, in coordination with the authorities, through the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP). 

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Adopting an area-based approach to develop community projects that support social cohesion and help remove obstacles to return or to other solutions for IDPs.
  • Providing legal assistance to IDP and returnee populations in the form of legal counseling, representation and awareness-raising, particularly for civil documentation and detention.
  • Advocating a new Refugee Law to develop national asylum legislation in line with international standards, establishing an effective asylum system and a framework for solutions for refugees.
  • Strengthening refugee registration and case management capacity, with UNHCR assuming direct responsibility for refugee registration country-wide to ensure all refugees and asylum-seekers are effectively documented.
  • Mainstreaming sexual and gender-based violence prevention and risk mitigation and working to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse as well as response efforts, through capacity development, awareness-raising and co-leadership of the Iraq Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Network.
Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

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  • 14-OCT-2021
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  • 12-OCT-2021

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  • 09-OCT-2021

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  • 08-OCT-2021
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  • 06-OCT-2021
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  • 05-OCT-2021

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  • 04-OCT-2021

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  • 30-SEP-2021

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