Considering Iraq a safe heaven is unimaginable for most, but for an increasing number of Iraqi refugees in neighbouring Syria returning home now seems like the safest option after a four month violent crackdown on protestors by the Assad regime.
Qahtan Sabri, a 61-year-old carpenter, fled Iraq in 2005. Now Sabri says the crisis in Syria has forced him to uproot again and return to Iraq. “I decided to return to Iraq when I realized that security is better in my own country than in Syria. I have resumed my business and will never leave my country,” he said.
Up to 1.5 million Iraqis are estimated to have fled to Syria during the civil war in Iraq, with latest UNHCR figures showing one million remain in Syria.
Since the beginning of May around 7,000 Iraqi refugees have returned from Syria to Iraq, according to the International Organization for Migration.
“It is extremely concerning that the regime's brutal violence has not only affected Syrians but also thousands of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees,” said Wissam Tarif, from the global campaign organisation Avaaz.
“More than 7,000 Iraqis have fled Syria since the uprising began, back to cities and towns in Iraq which are far from safe. Avaaz calls on the UNHCR and the international community to immediately take all necessary steps to support Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, before we have a humanitarian crisis on our hands.”