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Returning to ruins, displaced Iraqi farmers find help to rebuild

“When we left, the oranges on the trees were this big,” says Matra, cradling the memory of the fruit in two weather-beaten hands as she describes the night they fled their farm. “When we returned, the trees were all burned and nothing was left.”


Matra, 60, escaped along with her family and most of the other villagers of Yathrib – a farming community some 50 kilometres north of Baghdad – when ISIS fighters swept through the area in mid-2014.

“It was a tough night,” she says. “They were firing rockets at us. We managed to flee, but it was a painful night.”

After being displaced for two years, she was finally able to return to the farm in 2016, but was met with a scene of devastation. “Everything was different,” Matra said. “I came back and the farm was burned and everything was gone, including our clothes.”

“Farming is my life.”

Where once they had produced enough oranges, pomegranates, grapes and other products to support a simple yet comfortable lifestyle, the damage done to their home and farmland by the retreating militants meant they were no longer able produce enough to sell.

“Farming is my life, we can’t survive without it. We harvest and sell. But now I just plant to eat,” Matra explains. The small apartment she shared with her husband attached to the main farmhouse had been gutted by fire, forcing them to sleep in a shared room with half a dozen other family members.

It was a similar story for her neighbour Kutaiba, 22, whose family owns a 4,000 square metre plot of vines and apple and pomegranate trees. After being displaced for two years to the nearby city of Samarra, relying on his father’s teaching salary to get by, they came back to find the farm he had lived on all his life destroyed.

“When I returned, it was heart-breaking,” Kutaiba said. “The farm was ruined and the house was burned down.” They set about the labourious and costly work of rebuilding, starting with the farm that provides their livelihood before moving on to the house, repairing one room at a time.

“For us, the farm is everything,” Kutaiba explains. “Replanting takes time. This is the first year [since 2016] that we have had a harvest. Life was better before. We have lost a lot – money, homes, cars, cows – life is more expensive now, and more difficult.”

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Of the estimated 12,000 residents from Yathrib that were displaced in 2014, some 8,500 have so far returned to the area. In the country as a whole, of nearly 6 million people internally displaced by the conflict since 2014, some 4.3 million have returned to their homes while around 1.6 million remain currently displaced.

Across Iraq, UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – is working to provide assistance both to displaced people and those returning home. In Yathrib, it has funded a number of priority projects including installing new electricity transformers, rehabilitating water treatment plants and repairing road bridges and the area’s main irrigation canal.

“The repairs were a big help.”

“Water is vital to our lives. Without it, all the [replanted] trees would have died,” Kutaiba says. “The irrigation was destroyed during the war, so the repairs were a big help in getting us back in business.”

UNHCR is also helping individuals such a Matra with repairs to their damaged homes, replacing windows and doors and plastering and painting damaged walls. The scale of the rebuilding task is huge, as evidenced by the rows of crumpled houses that were destroyed by the militants as they left. But for the returning residents, there is at least a glimmer of hope.

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“This is my land, and the land of my ancestors. Of course I am very attached to it,” Kutaiba explains. “We were one of the first families to return, because we wanted to live with dignity on our own land, even though everything was destroyed. I can’t describe the feeling when we came back, [and now] I look forward to a better future.”

Source: UNHCR

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

READ  Redouble efforts in implementing GCM, protecting migrants' human rights- UN Secretary General tasks members, partners

Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

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“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  COVID 19: 15, 300 Ethiopian migrants return home

 

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FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK

Kelvin

The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.

Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.

Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.

Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.

“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.

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