Wednesday, February 06, 2008
A Sort of Homecoming
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.
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.
It is unclear how reliable this information is, but it is a trend worth monitoring. The flow of refugees inside and/or out of Iraq is a pretty good indicator of at least the base-line security situation. People generally don't uproot their lives and set off on the perilous and uncertain path of refugees unless they have a palpable fear for their lives. The staggering number of internally and externally displaced Iraqis is also one of the ways in which post-invasion Iraq differs from life under Saddam.Then again, a large influx of returning refugees could prove to be a combustible situation given the extent to which abandoned homes have been commandeered and neighborhoods cleansed. Makes for some, er, awkward homecomings.