Danish NGO calls for aid to Iraqi civilians returning to ISIS-free areas

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Iraqi refugees, who fled from the violence in Mosul, use containers to collect water during sunset inside the Khazer refugee camp on the outskirts of Erbil. File photo: Reuters

ARA News 

Erbil – With the majority of humanitarian work rightly focusing on the 60,000 Iraqis displaced in the first month of the Mosul operations, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) urged the international community to also start looking at returnees that come back to liberated areas. “If we fail this, we fail Iraqis,” said DRC International Director Ann Mary Olsen.

Approximately 85% of IDPs are currently living in camps and informal settlements. As the fighting continues to push towards densely populated areas inside Mosul, civilians are fleeing the city and its environs as well as returning to territory retaken from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

“We are impressed by the preparedness effort so far on Mosul, from the UN, NGOs and government,” Olsen said following a trip to Qayyarah, in southern Nineveh. “But as much as humanitarian issues and displacement from Mosul are current priorities, IDP returns and early recovery are just around the corner.”

Civilians are already returning to areas retaken by security forces, and many others have expressed a desire to return home, however towns and villages remain contaminated by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other explosive remnants of war (ERWs), which pose serious risks to those going back home.

Atlas one Kurdish Peshmerga fighter died on 17 November in the town of Bashiqa after an IED exploded in a house although cleaning operations took place before.

Many houses in liberated territories need to be cleaned from IEDs before civilians can return. Even the town of Sinjar, which was liberated last year, still needs to be cleared from mines.

“Safe return is contingent upon adequate clearing of IEDs and other explosives and the current capacity to cope with the scale of the problem requires urgent attention,” said Klansø, who added that protection of IDPs remains a grave concern to humanitarian organisations. “As the worst is still to come, it is important we keep particular focus on the protection of civilians as the fight moves closer into central Mosul.”

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq has previously asked the international community to do more to clear out liberated areas from mines and IEDS which prevent the return of civilians.

Reporting by: Wladimir van wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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