Between two societies. Review of the Information, Return and Reintegration of Iraqi Nationals to Iraq (IRRINI) programme (pdf, 3 MB)
For over half of the 60 respondents in Iraqi Kurdistan, the refusal of legal status in Norway was theprimary motivation for return, followed by poor living conditions/ill treatment in Norway. Only 7 persons cited family related issues for return, and only 2 the benefits of a return programme. That differed for those in Baghdad, where equal numbers cited conditions in Norway and family related issues to care for in Iraq as reasons for return. Not more than 5 mentioned perceived improvements of the situation in Iraq.
In Norway, the large majority of those interviewed had obtained information about the IRRINI programme at the reception centres, including information sessions held by IOM. Although more than half felt they had obtained sufficient information, during the interview many appeared unaware of important details of the programme – not least regarding the reintegration support. In Iraq, approximately three-quarters of the returnees reported learning of IRRINI from IOM. Other sources of information included BIP, friends, reception centres and UDI.
Cash assistance, on the other hand, came up prominently when respondents were asked both about their knowledge of the IRRINI programme and what they considered to be most useful for their return. In terms of return conditions at home, most respondents in Norway (79 percent) reported being well informed from the media, family, friends, and the internet. However, nearly three-quarters of returnees in Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad found the situation to be very different from what they had expected. The situation differed from region to region. In Iraqi Kurdistan 38 per cent judged the situation to have improved, 22 per cent found it worse, while in Bagdad only 8 per cent found improvements, and 56 per cent found it to have deteriorated.
This perception affects returnees’ views on the sustainability of return. In Iraqi Kurdistan approximately three-quarters of the respondents said they would remain. In Baghdad, however, nearly half the returnees did not know if they would remain in the area they returned to.
All but one of the returnees to Iraqi Kurdistan returned to where they had lived before leaving for Norway, although some had already first fled internally in Iraq. For Baghdad, a different picture emerged, with 40 per cent of returnees not returning to their previous location. We were unable to determine the reason for this difference, but expect that it may be found in the history of conflict and altered demographic map of Baghdad and parts of southern Iraq. The interviews revealed a range of factors concerning the will and ability of potential returnees to
relate to and absorb the information provided:
The majority of returnees do not regard IRRINI as a voluntary programme, and many express distrust in the Norwegian government’s handling of asylum applications from Iraqi nationals. For them the term “mandatory return”, as suggested by the European Council on Returnees and Exiles (ECRE), appears to be a more accurate description of their options and of the IRRINI programme.
What is very positively perceived, (with the exception of a few returnees to Baghdad), is how the return travel is organised and the cash assistance received at the airport upon return. 37 per centreturning to Iraqi Kurdistan explained that they spent the cash grant on themselves/daily expenses, 27 per cent spent it on transportation, 17 per cent invested it in income generating activities, 12 per cent used it to pay back loans, while the remainder either invested in the home or saved the grant. Returnees emphasized the importance of being able to offer gifts to the family upon return and receive visitors, as “it would be a very big shame for them to come back without any gifts”. Exchange rate fluctuations between the US dollar and the Norwegian kroner (NOK), and the resulting large variations in the cash amount provided at different times, created suspicion among returnees about corruption in the programme.
With respect to reintegration support, a slight majority chose the “business option”, including 48 per cent of those returning to Iraqi Kurdistan and 64 per cent of those returning to Baghdad. 28 per cent of Bagdad returnees cited previous experience in their current line of business. This selection was followed by job referral (33 per cent for Iraqi Kurdistan and 24 per cent for Baghdad, of which 16 per cent reported to have secured long term jobs). 8 per cent in Iraqi Kurdistan and none in Baghdad opted for education/vocational training. Assessments of IOM’s support for the reintegration process were uneven. 43 per cent of those returning to Iraqi Kurdistan were positive about their performance, 23 per cent negative, 25 per cent mixed and 8 per cent unclear. There are, however, major regional differences. Returnees to Duhok were much more critical than returnees to other areas, primarily due to the time and money spent commuting to the IOM office in Erbil for obtaining reintegration assistance. Returnees to Suleimaniah, on the other hand, mentioned IOM’s close follow-up as a main reason for their satisfaction.
Approximately two-thirds of the returnees to Baghdad reported satisfaction with IOM. IOM’s contact and reintegration management was cited as the primary reason for frustration, especially for those returning to Duhok. Three complaints were frequently mentioned in the interviews:
Specifically, frustration resulted from uncertainty of whether the reintegration support was in cash or in kind, the requirement to produce “three quotes” for all procurements, the lack of one contact person to relate to at IOM, and a lengthy application process that many regarded as obstructing rather than facilitating their reintegration.
Four major findings emerged from this study:
The study identified three areas of concern with the programme:
We also found that the IRRINI programme’s reputation was affected by the fact that most returnees do not perceive return to be a “voluntary” option, but rather a last resort once other options are exhausted.In addition, many respondents from Iraqi Kurdistan expressed a belief that the Norwegian government had stopped granting them asylum as a group, irrespective of their individual background. Regarding the pre-departure return information: Many asylum seekers are not receptive to return information until they have actually decided to return. Once the decision has been made, they receive information mainly through fragmented presentations (by IOM and BIP, separately) and discussions with reception centre staff, who often lack detailed information themselves. The entire process is hampered by an excessive use of acronyms, and the lack of a personalized return dialogue with staff from IOM. Regarding return and reintegration: The return travel is well organised by IOM, and the cash support provided upon arrival in Iraq meets an important need and allows the returnees a more dignified return.
As for the reintegration package, a striking number of returnees claimed that there was a discrepancy between what they understood about their entitlements in Norway and what they actually received in Iraq. Reintegration support often comes late due to extensive IOM procedures and overburdened field staff. This lengthy process is unexpected by the returnees and causes grievances not easily addressed by the fragmented IOM bureaucracy. Many returnees entered into short term businesses to secure faster access to cash, and “money” was explained as the biggest advantage of the IRRINI programme. A lack of sufficiently broad, specific and comparable data inhibit any firm conclusion on the sustainability of the business establishments, though there are indications that a high proportion of businesses either close or cannot be monitored by IOM.
The reported lack of systematic follow-up from IOM makes it difficult to document the sustainability of return and ensure that the needs of especially vulnerable groups are catered for. However, experiences from Suleimaniah indicate that a structured and sustained contact from IOM with the returnees can generate a trust in IOM staff critical to identifying and supporting the most vulnerable returnees.
Based on the above findings, our recommendation to UDI is to consider a different model for the reintegration component of the programme. In place of a comprehensive reintegration package, we suggest provision of a cash amount equal in value to the present reintegration package (NOK 35,000), provided in two instalments. The justifications for a new model include:
A cash grant system must however be supplemented by a stronger emphasis on advice and planning pre-departure, in addition to targeted follow up in Iraq. Another option is to improve the current reintegration support model, with an emphasis on a more
personal, and thorough, follow-up process. The following recommendations relate to both
A. Sustainable return starts in Norway
B. Sustainable return continues in Iraq
Utført av: Chr. Michelsen Institutt
Bestilt av: UDI
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