Iraqi refugees near the Turkish border in 2014 | Photo: picture-alliance
Iraqi refugees near the Turkish border in 2014 | Photo: picture-alliance

The UN migration agency, the IOM, has responded on Twitter to complaints from Iraqi refugees who say they have been stranded in Turkey for up to six years. The refugees want to be given homes in third countries under the United Nations resettlement program.

Turkey hosts between 3.5 and 4 million refugees, more than any other country. Most of the refugees are from Syria. But there are also many who have fled from Iraq, where mass executions, systematic rape and violence are widespread. The UN estimates that there are three million internally displaced people in Iraq and more than 260,000 refugees in other countries, including Turkey.

In recent months, comments with the hashtag #standwithiraqirefugees have appeared on social media, claiming that Iraqi refugees in Turkey have been waiting for up to six years to be resettled in third countries. Some say they fled Iraq because of death threats and have lost everything.

One tweet from March 24 says "we believe that the legitimate and legal path is the right path, and we’ve (been) patient for many years (waiting) to get resettlement, but we didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Will you save us?"

"Where is their new homeland?," asks another.

Several tweets complain that Iraqis are treated unfairly compared with other refugees, especially Syrians.

After four months of similar comments from Iraqi refugees on Twitter, the IOM tweeted a response at the end of March. In a brief statement, it says that it is up to national governments to decide who is resettled. It also says that the demand for resettlement places is much greater than the number available - only 1 percent of the world’s estimated 25.4 million refugees are resettled, according to the IOM.

How many Iraqi refugees in Turkey are resettled?

The number of Iraqi refugees resettled from Turkey has fallen in recent years, UNHCR figures show. In 2014, a total of 5,803 Iraqis in Turkey were resettled in third countries. Last year the number was just 300.

The majority of Iraqis in Turkey who have been resettled over the past five years have been found new homes in the United States. 4,306 Iraqi refugees from Turkey were resettled in the US in 2014 (nearly 9 percent of the total number resettled). Relative to other countries, Canada and Australia also resettled large numbers of Iraqis from Turkey.

Germany has resettled few Iraqis from Turkey. Last year of a total of 3,217 refugees resettled in Germany, only one was an Iraqi national from Turkey.

So far in 2019, of a total of 2,149 refugees resettled worldwide, 11 Iraqis from Turkey have been found new homes, all of them in Canada.

In contrast with Iraqis, the rate of resettlement for Syrian refugees in Turkey increased significantly from 22 in 2013 to 11,690 in 2017, decreasing again to 8,096 in 2018.

Advice from the IOM to refugees in Turkey

The IOM advises refugees in Turkey to make sure that the Turkish Directorate General for Migration Management or the UNHCR is able to contact them. It also says people should be aware of scams and should contact the UNHCR if they are in any doubt.

The UNHCR Turkey’s main office is based in Ankara. For individual support and assistance, the number is 444 4868. Advice is available in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and English.

To get in touch with the Ministry of Interior Directorate General of Migration Management, the number is 0312 422 0652.


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