Ongoing Programme

Third Country Nationals - Flight from Falluja. In November 2004 twenty five Moroccans were accompanied by IOM staff on their return to Morocco.

Assisted Voluntary Returns
In the past 10 years, war and political instability has caused millions of Iraqis to emigrate. There are now substantial Iraqi communities in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as in North Africa, Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia.

IOM has been providing assistance to returning Iraqi migrants for over ten years. Since the first Gulf war, IOM has been involved in several return programmes to Iraq, either assisting UNHCR in repatriations of refugees from neighboring Iran, or more recently arranging the voluntary return of small numbers of extra-regional migrants, either through ad hoc air travel arrangements via Amman into Baghdad, or by land transportation through Syria. More recently, since 2002, IOM's activities in and around Iraq have concentrated on its focal point responsibilities under the inter-agency response plan to assist those fleeing Iraq as well as Iraqi nationals abroad who decide to voluntarily return to Iraq for humanitarian reasons. IOM's assistance to population outflows has focused on transit support and voluntary return of stranded third country nationals (TCNs) with transit support and return assistance.

In August 2003, IOM established an IOM Baghdad support office in Amman, Jordan, after the deterioration of the security situation in Iraq. This provides a base of operations for international staff relocated from Iraq in September 2003, and facilitates close coordination with IOM national staff in Iraq, with many of IOM's Iraqi government counterparts, UN and NGO partners.

In 2004 IOM established the Regional Operations Centre within the IOM Baghdad support office in Amman, The ROC is the coordination body overseeing the inflow and outflow of populations of IOMs concern, and assists all concerned counterparts on migration related issues. The Regional Operations Centre is complimented by regional office in Egypt, and country offices in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and has limited presence in Saudi-Arabia and Lebanon, and it coordinates its activities with any other IOM mission involved worldwide.

What we do
IOM has developed and established coordination and operational mechanisms, through the Regional Operations Centre (ROC). The ROC operates in coordination with Iraqi Government, as well as with relevant agencies, national and international authorities and governments, non governmental partners and IOM missions in countries involved in the operations.

At present the situation in Iraq is not yet conducive to mass returns that could destabilize the local situation. It is therefore not yet possible to implemental country specific programme to promote return and reintegration to Iraq. However, there is a common consent on the need to facilitate the return on humanitarian basis of Iraqi nationals. According to this principle IOM is currently assisting, at the request of host countries and in coordination with the Iraqi authorities, small numbers of Iraqis abroad wanting to return home for special and urgent reasons such as family, medical or other humanitarian concerns. The current assistance to returnees is provided within the framework of IOM's existing general Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programmes funded, by the hosting country, in order to continue to respond to the flow of requests for urgent, humanitarian assistance.

A voluntary decision to return entails a two-pronged element:

  1. The freedom of choice in the absence of any physical, psychological or material pressure.

  2. An informed decision based on available, updated objective and accurate information on which this voluntary return decision is based upon.

A voluntary return request is always the trigger for IOM assistance and is based on the premise that the migrant is not under any pressure or coercion to return and is duly informed on the conditions of return. Consequently, the current returns are limited to small numbers of migrants urgently seeking to return. These requests are prioritized according to pressing humanitarian reasons. To the extent possible, IOM delivers return transport assistance while maintaining a low profile due to security situation in Iraq.

IOM assistance also includes the counseling of migrants in host countries, the provision of pre-departure relevant information on the situation in Iraq including possible medical assistance and reintegration opportunities, notification of Iraq transitional authorities and relevant transit clearance from neighboring country authorities, air transportation to neighboring country airports,airport assistance upon arrival, reinstallation and/or reintegration grant payments (when possible) and overland or air transportation thereafter to final destination in Iraq. For vulnerable cases and people in need of specific support, specialized assistance is arranged such as medical escorts and ambulance transport in transit countries and in Iraq.

IOM is currently also assessing under current security conditions the feasibility of a number of complementary post arrival reception, reinsertion and reintegration measures in Iraq that would contribute to the sustainability of returns.

Since 2003, approximately 7000 returnees have been provided with IOM AVR services from more than 18 countries of departure.

Third Country Nationals (TCN):
Following the collapse of the former regime, many thousands of non-Iraqis who had been living and working in Iraq have sought to leave the country due to the deteriorating security situation, many had been there a substantial amount of time. A great deal work in low paid jobs and have not the savings to make their own way to their country of origin and become stranded on the borders of Iraq and its neighboring countries.

These movements of people, together with the returns of refugees and other Iraqi populations from abroad, pose the need of coordination on the operational activities as well as support and assistance to the relevant partners on policy development. The established Regional Operations Centre(ROC) is also well placed to provide assistance in this area.

Since March 2003 IOM has been providing assistance to Third Country Nationals (TCNs) stranded in Iraq, as well as coordination through the Regional Operations Centre (ROC). IOM assists Third Country Nationals stranded and destitute in Iraq who are willing to voluntarily return to their countries of origin. The program focuses primarily on persons whose countries of origin may not have the financial means to assist them.

A request for assistance to return, based on the principle of voluntariness, is always the trigger for IOM assistance, whether back to Iraq, in the case of its nationals abroad, or out from the region in the case of TCNs.

IOM provides;

  • Coordination with relevant and supporting IOM missions
  • The counseling of migrants in order to take informed decisions on returning
  • The notification of national authorities and the relevant clearances for movement
  • All arrangements for transportation
  • Assistance upon departure
  • The provision of pocket money
  • Assistance in countries of transit and final destination

For those in need of medical assistance, arrangements are sought through local health service providers for adequate care / medical escort en-route and upon arrival/departure.

More than 6000 departures to countries of origin have been recorded since operations began on 18 March, 2003. Additionally, a total of 92 persons have departed to other countries where they have been accepted for resettlement. Third-Country Nationals so far resettled represent 32 different countries of origin.

Iraqi Government, Governmental and nongovernmental agencies in countries hosting Iraqis willing to return, UNHCR

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April 2005 saw a surge of Third Country Nationals, particularly from Sudan making their way home with the assistance of IOM’s TCN programme.

To date, IOM has assisted more than 6000 TCNs to return to their countries of origin and also assisted the voluntary return of some 7000 Iraqi nationals to their home country during the period starting from 18 March 2003.

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