Access to Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq

Migration, both forced and voluntary, has long been a major part of Iraqis’ lives. Over the past three decades, close to six million Iraqis (out of a total population of 33 million) have been forcibly displaced inside Iraq.  Saddam Hussein repeatedly utilized displacement as a strategic tool to isolate minorities and consolidate political control. Waves of sectarian violence in the years following the 2003 US-led coalition war led to further internal displacements of larger groups of Iraqis . Most recently, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s swift takeover of areas of northwestern Iraq, beginning in December 2013 and continuing until today, has led to the displacement of an additional three million Iraqis. Within this ongoing wave of ISIS-induced displacement are many Iraqis who have been doubly- or even triply-displaced; still others have been languishing in situations of protracted displacement, with few opportunities to return home, integrate in their host communities, or settle in a third location.

This study, a joint initiative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), derives from the need to understand Iraqi IDPs’ access (or lack thereof) to the three durable solutions of return, integration, or resettlement.

This longitudinal study of 4000 IDP households, host communities, and other stakeholders conducted spans over three to five years, and will generate and analyze original data from IDPs’ responses: their movement and stability, their use of social and economic capital and networks, and what and who has allowed for or prevented their integration or return, among other topics related to durable solutions.

The longitudinal nature of the study allows unique tracking of IDPs’ access to durable solutions over time, which will ultimately allow us to understand and advocate for programing around: 1) when and why people move; 2) people’s access to and utilization of durable solutions in different contexts; and 3) what factors allow IDPs to find and create durable solutions (social capital; economic capital; cultural capital; external aid; labor skills/market needs; government programs; ethnic/religious/linguistic factors; community relations; and educational opportunities, among others).

Through a blend of qualitative and quantitative approaches, including work with a range of stakeholders and host community members, the study aims to answer the following questions:

  • How do the experiences of displacement and access to durable solutions among IDPs in Iraq change over time? Our findings will allow us to comment on a) factors which make it more likely that IDPs find durable solutions; b) factors which contribute to multiple displacements; and c) some observations on what durable solutions mean in the Iraqi context.
  • What are the needs, coping strategies and aspirations of IDPs, and which events or factors are perceived to impact these needs, coping strategies and aspirations over time? Questions will look at household social, cultural, and economic capital, external aid, household labor skills, government programs, ethnic/religious/linguistic factors, community relations (bridging and bonding capital), educational opportunities. Our findings will allow us to comment on a) both individual characteristics and situational factors that influence IDPs finding durable solutions; b) the relationship between coping strategies and durable solutions; c) the relationship between aspirations and actually finding durable solutions; and d) some general findings on the impact of protracted displacement.
  • How does the experience of IDPs in Iraq inform our conceptualization and operationalization of quasi-durable and durable solutions? The findings will allow discussing a) the relationship between coping strategies, aspirations and durable solutions; b) whether the IASC Framework is applicable or overly rigorous in its definition of durable solutions; c) comparisons with previous work on durable solutions in disaster settings; and d) what quasi-durable solutions mean.

This project is receiving funding from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

After conducting an in-depth literature review, part of the ISIM research team traveled to Erbil, Iraq, to work with IOM to train approximately 30 Iraqi enumerators on data collection methods and to conduct a field test of the qualitative and quantitative questionnaires.

The first round of data collection was completed in spring 2016, and researchers are now in the process of analyzing the rich qualitative and quantitative data yielded. Through field visits and frequent contact with the Iraqi data collection teams in the field, the research team is working to refine the project methodology and types of data collected in advance of the next round of data collection in fall 2016.

For further information, contact: B. Lindsey Lowell, Grace Benton, or Rochelle Davis.