Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees 2010

30 November 2009

The 2010 Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees (RRP) continues a process initiated by the inter-agency consolidated appeal for Iraq and the Region in 2009.  Drawing upon lessons learned during the 2009 CAP process, the RRP seeks to provide the most appropriate and effective protection and assistance for Iraqi refugees.  It establishes a framework for collaboration on behalf of Iraqi refugees scattered across 12 countries – primarily Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, but also Egypt, Turkey, Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.   Reflecting its urban and mid-level development context, the RRP unites humanitarian and development actors alike, and encompasses UN agencies, government counterparts, national and international NGOs and donors.  Among UN agencies and NGOs alone, more than 50 organizations have participated. 

2009 has seen a continued stabilization of the situation of Iraqi refugees and a maturing of the inter-agency response on their behalf.  Governments in the region continue their generous tradition of hospitality, despite strains on national resources and infrastructure.  The number of registered refugees and asylum seekers has been roughly constant, with a slight decrease to 294,148 as of October 2009.   Comparing the situation to that of two years ago, many gains are evident: Iraqis continue to have access to asylum and protection in their neighbouring countries; their risk of detention or deportation for illegal entry has been reduced; and the temporary residency of the majority is condoned in practice if not in law.  In most though not all countries, Iraqi refugees have access to public services including education and health care.  With donor support, targeted assistance – in the form of food, financial assistance, non-food items, school fees and payment for some medical care and psychological treatment – has provided an essential safety net for the most vulnerable individuals.

Yet as the displacement of many of the refugees moves into its fourth year, the reality of durable solutions remains elusive for the majority.  Though substantial numbers have been resettled – nearly 18,000 in 2008 and an equal number in the first nine months of 2009 – resettlement will, by its nature, be a solution only for a minority of refugees.  At the same time, conditions are not yet ripe for a voluntary and sustainable return to Iraq in large numbers.  While security inside Iraq has been on a gradual path of improvement, it remains precarious and volatile.  Because of this, as well as a deficit in public services and employment opportunities, fewer Iraqi refugees than expected have chosen voluntary repatriation in 2009: approximately 2,400 Iraqi refugees have returned with the assistance of UNHCR, including more than 1,000 who returned from the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Many Iraqis who return to Iraq prefer not to seek assistance from UNHCR for their return (and deregister in their respective countries of asylum), in case they later need to again revive their asylum status.  According to the UNHCR Representation and government sources inside Iraq, a total of 32,500 Iraqi refugees had returned in 2009, as of October.   Once in Iraq, these returnees face a host of challenges, including access to shelter, services and employment, human rights violations, and chronic deficiencies in the rule of law.

As the majority remain in legal limbo in their countries of asylum, more and more have depleted their private resources and are dependent upon UN and NGO partners to meet their basic needs.  What is more, protection risks due to this destitution are evident: school drop-outs, child labour and even early marriages as coping mechanisms, along with exploitation in the informal labour market and increases in domestic and sexual or gender-based violence.

Against this backdrop, the RRP keeps an eye on both immediate and future needs: it seeks to ensure a positive protection environment in the countries of asylum and support the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable through targeted assistance, while continuing efforts to facilitate durable solutions.  Each working group has additionally set its own objectives and prioritized activities based on their assessment of needs.  Individual participants have indicated what activities and expertise they can offer within this framework, along with an estimation of financial requirements.  Thus, while its objective is to strengthen the delivery of protection and assistance to the Iraqi refugees, the Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees (RRP) will nonetheless assist donors to understand how the individual activities of all partners fit as part of the overall response.

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30 November 2009

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