Media outlets are broadcasting the departure of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis from their countries toward Europe by boat, train or on foot. The scenes of escape and displacement coupled with panic and catastrophe are reminiscent of the past eras of broad immigration.
The issue of the displaced Syrian people has received special interest, given the conflicting international stances on their situation. However, Iraqis, too, should be in the spotlight, as they share the same plight.
This is not the first time Iraqis have emigrated from their country, but the numbers have never been as large as they are today. The huge change will affect the demographic situation and raise questions about the fate of minorities. There are indications that the minorities of Iraq’s social structure will be endangered if their displacement persists.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center in Geneva announced that the number of displaced Iraqis within Iraq reached 4 million in mid-June 2015, compared with 3.5 million in December 2014, according to a survey by UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.
In March 2015, UNHCR noted that as a result of the war in Syria and Iraq, asylum seekers in Europe reached their highest number in 22 years. Most Iraqi asylum seekers head to Turkey first, and continue their journey from there to a European country. The number of Iraqi asylum seekers in Turkey is below the total of Syrian asylum seekers. In 2014, 68,700 asylum requests were submitted by Iraqis to the United Nations, double the number in 2013.
The deputy head of the Iraqi parliament’s committee on displacement, Haneen al-Qaddo of Ninevah province, said in an Aug. 27 press statement, “The number of immigrants from Iraq is constantly on the rise due to the country’s security situation.” He said his committee does not have an accurate estimate because of the lack of official places to register them. He added, “Most of the immigrants are minorities whose regions are controlled by the Islamic State and they believe that their return is almost impossible.”