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HRW: Iraq's closure of camps leaving families homeless

An elderly woman and children stand outside a tent shelter equipped with air-conditioning at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) of Iraq's Yazidi minority in the Sharya area, some 15 kilometres from the northern city of Dohuk in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region on 30 August 2019. [ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP via Getty Images]
An elderly woman and children stand outside a tent shelter equipped with air-conditioning at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) of Iraq's Yazidi minority in the Sharya area, some 15 kilometres from the northern city of Dohuk in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region on 30 August 2019. [ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP via Getty Images]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday warned that Iraq's plan to close camps hosting internally displaced persons (IDPs) would lead to "homelessness and vulnerability".

The rights watchdog said authorities should not force camp residents out "without first ensuring they have alternative access to shelter, food, water, health care, and other basic services in a safe and secure environment".

It also called to grant residents a 30-day notice period, provide them with adequate information about the areas they will return to, in addition to providing them with easy transportation.

Last month, Iraqi authorities announced a plan to close IDP camps in the governorates of Kirkuk, Saladin and Anbar, with the rest of the camps due to be closed next year, allowing for the return of about 1.5 million displaced people to their original areas.

However, HRW senior crisis and conflict researcher, Belkis Wille, said: "Reintegrating families who have spent years in camps back into Iraqi society so they can start to lead a normal life is a positive step."

"But the current approach of forcing people out of camps that have provided them with food, shelter, and security for years, often with only 24 hours' notice, makes them even more vulnerable."

The United Nations estimates that at least 5.5 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes during battles with Daesh.

READ: Hundreds of Iraq civil servants protest delayed salaries

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