Remember all the noise about how Iraqis were returning home because their country was so much safer now? Not true says the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees.
Iraqis are once again leaving Iraq for Syria in greater numbers than are returning, despite the lower level of bloodshed in their homeland, the UN refugee agency said on Wednesday.Like so much official "good news" about Iraq, this story appears to have been blatant spin.
A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, citing Syrian immigration officials, said that in late January an average of 1,200 Iraqis entered Syria every day compared with around 700 who returned.
Most of those Iraqis who return say they are doing so because their Syrian visas have expired or because they have run out of money, rather than because conditions in their homeland have improved, the report said.
..."According to an Iraqi Red Crescent report issued in January 2008, some 46,000 refugees returned home from Syria between September and December 2007, a much lower figure than that given by the Iraqi government," the report said.
The Iraqi government had given a figure of 60,000 returnees and invited reporters to homecoming ceremonies at which officials presented the refugees with gifts and boasted of the achievements of the Baghdad security plan.
But according to a survey of refugees carried out by the UN refugee agency in Syria, 46 percent of those seeking to return said they could no longer afford to live in Syria and 25 percent had seen their visas expire.
"Most refugees interviewed do not agree with the idea that security has sufficiently improved in Iraq. Refugees discussing returning to Iraq cite financial pressures as the driving reason for return," the report said.