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