Millions of Iraqis have been forced to emigrate from their country due to the political, security and economic conditions, and the turmoil it has witnessed during the past three decades. With the World Refugee Day on June 20, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees are still living in difficult conditions, with little hope for a better future.
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The Iraqi journalist, Ahmed Saeed, says that a large segment of youth left Iraq during the 1990s due to the imposed economic blockade, but after the US invasion in 2003, segments of Christians and religious minorities were at the forefront of immigrants as a result of direct targeting of them.
Saeed points out that the youth segment is the most likely to consider asylum; Because they are looking for a better life and building a future for them in light of the chaos in the country, the deterioration of the security and economic level, and the absence of a clear horizon for solving these problems.
In the beginning, the Iraqis were trying to seek refuge in legal ways by traveling to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and other countries first, then applying through the United Nations offices for immigration to America, Australia, Canada and others, and the refugee took about two years to complete the procedures that would enable him to travel to Western countries, as explained by President Volunteer team to rescue drowned refugees Ahmed Younes.
He shows to Al Jazeera Net that the United Nations’ delay in refugee requests prompted a number of Iraqi asylum seekers to take illegal routes; Such as smuggling through Turkey to Greece, and then to the rest of the countries, whether by sea or land, despite facing many difficulties, risking their lives, children and families in order to obtain a prosperous future in the diaspora.
Yunus talks about many dangers facing Iraqis on the journey of asylum, including the dangers of land roads, where they face forests and rivers in which many have drowned, as well as many died of hunger and thirst after they got lost in the forests, and some face military forces on the Greek borders, which are oppressing migrants, and are based bring them back to Turkey.
He goes on to say that the sea route is dangerous, as Iraqi immigrants ride rubber boats, the size of which is 6 meters, in which 50 to 60 migrants ride, and not all boats can handle this large number, and the journey ends with drowning.
Yunus – who is residing in Turkey – talks about thousands of corpses of the victims of these boats, which he called “the boats of death”, filling Turkish cemeteries, and the graves of strangers in Greece, where you find most of them are Iraqis and Syrians, in addition to many missing persons whose fate is not yet known.
He points out to the large costs that refugees pay to smugglers on the asylum journey to Europe, where the cost of a trip to Greece by rubber boats reaches 1,400 dollars per person, while the costs of a land trip reach 2,500 dollars, on the pretext that it is safer, although it is no less dangerous than the sea. A motorized gate boat trip, up to $1800.
Yunus pointed out that when smugglers agree with the migrants, they delude them that the process of transporting them by sea will be by safe 3-storey tourist yachts, at a cost of up to $2500 per person.
There are no accurate and central statistics on the number of Iraqi refugees abroad; But before 2003, they did not exceed two million, and about 3 million have been added to them since 2014, all of which are approximate numbers, according to Hussein Arab, the deputy head of the Labor and Displaced Committee in the Iraqi parliament.
And about the distribution of refugees, he tells Al Jazeera Net that most of the Iraqi immigrants have sought refuge in Europe and America, and some immigrants have jobs in Jordan, the Emirates, Egypt and other countries.
He added that Germany and America are the countries that have received Iraqi refugees the most, while the rest of the countries have strict regulations and instructions to limit them. He pointed out that Iraq encourages voluntary return; But he rejects the forced deportation, which some countries practice against Iraqi refugees.
Arabs note that the Iraqi authorities have intervened to solve the problems of Iraqi immigrants in some countries; However, the services do not rise to a level that satisfies the migrants, because their numbers are large, and the embassies cannot reach them in the quick and required manner.
In the same context, the “Summit” Foundation, which specializes in Iraqi refugee affairs, counted the number of refugees during the 5 years for the period between 2015 to 2020, amounting to 562,293 people, distributed in 35 countries around the world, noting that 242 of them died during the asylum journey, and 171 others in Missing, and this statistic did not include refugees temporarily in Turkey and other countries.
Most Iraqi refugees today live in harsh conditions to say the least. Because deprivation, hunger and need are the most prominent characteristics of these conditions in which they live in different countries, with the exception of some who are fortunate in refugee cases within countries whose level of dealing with refugees is better than others, according to Assistant Professor of Sociology, Dr. Waad Ibrahim Khalil.
He adds to Al Jazeera Net that education is one of the most prominent problems facing Iraqi refugees, and this is linked to several factors, the first of which is the difference in education methods in those countries, and there may also be language differences and difficulties related to the material aspects that are related to educational costs, and most important of all is the Iraqi laws, Which does not recognize some of the certificates obtained by students.
In turn, researcher and journalist Mahmoud al-Najjar says that Iraqi refugees do not want to return to their homeland despite their harsh conditions; Because they feel that there is no future in Iraq, due to the dominance of political parties over the country’s capabilities, and the killings, arrests and assassinations led by armed parties.
He explains to Al Jazeera Net that the Iraqi refugee is looking for a better future for his children and family, or at least an opportunity to live in freedom and dignity for the remainder of his life; Therefore, he accepts to be patient with not getting work, and adapts to live in a safe environment that respects people.
Al-Najjar expresses his astonishment at the Iraqi government’s indifference to the conditions of Iraqi refugees, and the inaction of the Iraqi embassy or consulate offices in foreign countries to play their role in solving the problems of immigrants. Rather, they are treated in an uncivilized manner.
He rules out the existence of government plans to encourage the return of refugees to the homeland, due to the security turmoil and economic deterioration.