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Iraq returning displaced civilians from camps to unsafe areas

Middle East News
Sun, 07 Jan 2018
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Middle East News: Iraq returning displaced civilians from camps to unsafe areas
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Displaced Iraqi children are seen at the Amriyat Al Fallujah camp in Anbar province, Iraq on January 3, 2018. (REUTERS/Khalid Al Mousily)

Amriyat Al-Falluja, Iraq: Iraqi security forces are forcibly returning civilians from refugee camps to unsafe areas in Anbar province, exposing them to death from booby-traps or acts of vigilantism, refugees and aid workers say.

Managing more than two million Iraqis displaced by the war against Islamic State is one of Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's most daunting tasks. But critics say he is more interested in winning elections in May than alleviating the suffering of displaced Iraqis and returning them safely home.

Authorities are sending back people against their will, refugees and aid workers say, to ensure that the election takes place on time. People must be in their area of origin to vote and if they do not get home, this could delay the election.

Abadi is riding a wave of popularity after defeating Islamic State in Iraq and is anxious the election should not be held up.

His strategy is not without its hazards. Abadi risks alienating Sunni voters if displaced Sunnis are seen to be suffering from being sent home to dangerous areas.

Abadi is seeking a second term in which he plans to fight corruption and maintain national unity in the face of Kurdish separatism. He will need all the votes he can muster to face down a challenge from candidates linked to Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias.

Interviews with aid workers and dozens of displaced people at camps in the town of Amriyat Al Falluja, located in Anbar province, 40km (25 miles) from Baghdad, as well as with several families who were returned to other areas in the province, reveal that many were forced to go home and several suffered death or injury.

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