Iraq’s Troubles Drive Out Refugees Who Came Back

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The New York Times

Iraq’s Troubles Drive Out Refugees Who Came Back

by
John Leland

The mother and daughters of Abu Maream in a cramped Baghdad apartment. The family fled to Syria in 2005 and returned last year. But Mr. Maream is unable to find a job and worried about safety, so he is sending some of his relatives back to Syria. (Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times)

BAGHDAD - A second exodus has begun here, of Iraqis who returned after fleeing the carnage of the height of the war, but now find that violence and the nation's severe lack of jobs are pulling them away from home once again.

Since the American invasion in 2003, refugees have been a measure of the country's precarious condition, flooding outward during periods of violence and trickling back as Iraq seemed to stabilize. This new migration shows how far the nation remains from being stable and secure.

Abu Maream left Iraq after a mortar round killed his brother-in-law in 2005. Amar al-Obeidi left when insurgents threatened to kill him and raided his shops. Hazim Hadi Mohammed al-Tameemi left because the doctors who treated his wife's ovarian cancer had fled the country.

All three joined the flow of refugees who returned as violence here ebbed. But now they want to leave again.

"The only thing that's stopping me is I don't have the money," said Mr. Maream, who gave only a partial name - literally, father of Maream - because he feared reprisal from extremists in his neighborhood. "We are Iraqis in name only."

Nearly 100,000 refugees have returned since 2008, out of more than two million who left since the invasion, according to the Iraqi government and the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.

But as they return, pulled by improved security in Iraq or pushed by a lack of work abroad, many are finding that their homeland is still not ready - their houses are gone or occupied, their neighborhoods unsafe, their opportunities minimal.

In a recent survey by the United Nations refugee office, 61 percent of those who returned to Baghdad said they regretted coming back, most saying they did not feel safe. The majority, 87 percent, said they could not make enough money here to support their families. Applications for asylum in Syria have risen more than 50 percent since May.

As Iraq struggles toward a return to stability, these returnees risk becoming people without a country, displaced both at home and abroad. And though departures have ebbed since 2008, a wave of recent attacks on Christians has prompted a new exodus.

Read the full article at The New York Times.

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