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UN Pledges Continuing Support to Displaced Iraqis and Syrians
By John J. Catherine

One year to the month after the liberation of Mosul, the United Nations (UN) refugee agency pledged a "firm commitment to stand with the people" of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region "for as long as it takes."

In a statement released on Thursday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that, "We need to be nimble and creative in our response in order to meet the needs of vulnerable Iraqis and Syrian refugees across an ever-broadening spectrum. 2018-2019 must be a year of return."

"Iraq needs to leave behind the legacy of 25 years of displacement and move towards normalization."

The statement went on to say that "the battle for Mosul ended one year ago this month, but the legacy of conflict continues to overshadow Iraq... We must remember that return is not just going back to a house, it is going back to a community."

Some 3.9 million Iraqis have already returned to their home towns and villages, according to the UNHCR, but for the 2 million Iraqis still in displacement, "obstacles to return must be removed and conditions conducive to return must be created. The extent of the devastation in places like West Mosul cannot be underestimated."

For the 250,000 Syrian refugees sheltering in Iraq, the statement continued, "return is not a sustainable option at present."

"The Kurdistan Region of Iraq houses 97 per cent of the Syrian refugees in Iraq, generously received by the people and the Kurdistan Regional Government. For a country barely out of the shadow of conflict and extremism, the benevolence of Iraqis and Kurds towards their Syrian neighbours is truly humbling."

The UNHCR was created in 1950, and its challenging mandate is to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration, or resettlement to a third country.

In a monthly statement released on Sunday, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said that, in June, 76 Iraqi civilians were killed "in acts of terrorism, violence, and armed conflict" while another 129 were injured by such attacks.

The figures do not include casualties among members of the police or military, but rather "ordinary citizens, and others considered civilian at the time of death or injury, such as police in non-combat functions, civil defense, personal security teams, facilities protection police and fire department personnel," the statement read.

According to UNAMI, statistics included in the report "are estimates as the organization has been prevented from properly verifying casualties in some areas of the country... where the figures are provided by the Health Directorate and usually do not reflect the actual casualty count."

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