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Iraq: UN human rights expert calls for steps to help displaced in Kurdistan region

Iraq: UN human rights expert calls for steps to help displaced in Kurdistan region

Walter Kaelin, the Secretary-General’s Representative for the Human Rights of IDPs
A United Nations human rights expert today called on authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan to take swift measures to assist the estimated 30,000 displaced families in the region who are overwhelmingly poor and often lack access to basic services such as education, shelter and health care.

Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General's Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), wrapped up a week-long visit to Iraq by urging the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to provide the displaced families with an action plan that meets their social, economic and security needs.

“Such a plan could include rental subsidies and other financial assistance for particularly poor families among the displaced, as well as livelihood interventions,” he said in a statement issued in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

“It could also include allocation of housing or land plots for those who are unable or do not wish to return to their place of origin, and the strengthening of reception capacities for new arrivals, including from border regions with neighbouring countries which have been affected by shelling.”

The Representative said a multi-pronged approach was needed because the IDPs are displaced for a variety of reasons, with some fleeing from within Iraqi Kurdistan and others from different parts of the country.

The IDPs are overwhelmingly poor and Mr. Kälin said many are vulnerable to abuse, with women and children serving as family breadwinners at risk from human trafficking and other abuses.

“Employment in general? is also more difficult due to language barriers and lack of official residency papers. Many are unable to transfer their cards entitling them to receive food and other items through the public distribution system or to access pensions they received at their former place of habitual residence.”

The Representative noted that while national authorities stopped registering IDPs in February last year, they have continued to arrive in the Kurdistan region, and he called for registration to resume.

Mr. Kälin serves in his post in an unpaid and independent capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. During this visit to Iraq he met with senior officials from the KRG as well as IDPs, civil society groups and representatives of the international community.