“The ministry has registered the return of 64 Iraqi refugees from Turkey as part of the voluntary repatriation program,” Taleb Asghar Dosa, said the director-general of the ministry’s immigration department.
The statement was careful to point out that the refugees were not being forced to return.
Since the beginning of 2019, the federal government in Baghdad has facilitated the resettlement of large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their areas of origin.
Iraqi officials have repeatedly been accused of blocking some populations from their homes while forcing others into areas to which they were afraid, or otherwise unwilling, to return.
Thousands of refugees and IDPs continue to resist returning to their towns due to serious security concerns and a lack of infrastructure and basic government services.
The Ministry of Migration and Displacement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other Iraqi governmental bodies have a longstanding policy to refuse the non-voluntary return of Iraqi nationals from abroad.
Thursday's transfer of the refugees was carried out in coordination with the Ministry of Transportation.
In circumstances similar to previous batches of announced repatriations from Turkey, the latest returnees entered the Kurdistan Region through the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing in the Zakho district of Duhok province, from where they were presumably taken to their hometowns.
According to the Ministry, the refugees were residing in Turkey’s provinces of Ankara, Kirşehir, Çorum, Bolu, Çankiri, Ordu, and Samsun.
Following the emergence of the so-called Islamic State and its expansion over much of Iraq in 2014, six million Iraqis were displaced, with thousands fleeing abroad to neighboring and western countries.
Many settled in the Kurdistan Region, straining the resources of the Erbil government’s already suffering economy amid budget cuts from the central Iraqi government and reduced revenues from oil sales.