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Water Scarcity And Conflict Are Drivers Of Iraq Migration Patterns

BAGHDAD, Iraq

While human migration in northern Iraq is often driven by conflict, in the south of the country it is more often linked to livelihood factors such as water scarcity and the loss of arable land according to a new report. This first "Migration Profile" of Iraq, released 19 December, is a joint effort of the Iraq Ministries of Migration and Displacement, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Labor and Social Affairs, Planning, Interior in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Findings also indicate that Iraq hosts lower numbers of immigrants relative to its own population than neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon. The country’s foreign population increased 338 percent from 1990 through 2017 due to large influx of Syrian refugees.

It is the first statistical assessment of migration in Iraq and the findings will contribute to the evidence necessary to establish migration policies and strategies. The information will be used in conjunction with the IOM’s Migration Governance Indicator that measures national capacities across 90 governance indicators in six thematic areas.

"The Migration Profile is the result of the first-year meetings between Iraqi ministries and IOM. It will influence both near and far-reaching migration policies," said Ahmed Rahim, Director of the Department of Foreign Immigration at the Government of Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration.

“The Migration Profile demonstrates the Government of Iraq’s commitment to harnessing evidence-based and whole-of-Government approaches towards strong migration governance”, said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Gerard Waite. “The Migration data it contains can be leveraged in years to come to mainstream migration into policies and strategies”, as reported by the United Nations in Iraq.

The profile also shows that “out migration” has shifted. Between 1990 and 2003, the primary destination for Iraqis migrating abroad was Iran. After 2003, Jordan and Syria have been primary destinations. Europe became a major destination after 2014, with Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom being significant destination countries.

Internal displacement is also a concern of Iraq's government. “Displacement driven by the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) presents a peculiar case, in that it has provoked more internal displacement than international migration — in part because previous countries of refuge were in crisis themselves (Syria) or inaccessible (Jordan). Emigration as a result of ISIL’s presence has reached Turkey, Europe and Western countries, rather than former asylum countries (Iran, Jordan, Syria)”.

IOM has carried out similar studies in over 80 countries utilizing existing knowledge and literature, interviews with government and international organizations, publicly available quantitative data, and non-public data shared both by Iraqi authorities and international organizations.

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