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Residents Return To Devastated Fallujah

Residents Return To Devastated Iraqi City Of Fallujah With Help Of UN Refugee Agency

The United Nations refugee agency is working with Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration to help some of the more than 250,000 people of Fallujah return to their city after it was heavily damaged in last November’s assault by United States-led forces against insurgents there.

“Some 85,000 residents have entered the city to inspect their houses and assess the general conditions of the town since the end of the fighting in December,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva today.

“Our partners on the ground estimate that some 10 per cent of them, or roughly 8,500 people, have remained in the city for good, although there is still no official count of the actual numbers. Recent reports suggest that whole families, as opposed to men alone, are now moving into the town,” she added.

In late December, UNHCR made available to the Iraqi authorities and other partners on the ground 50,000 blankets, 2,000 mattresses, 600 tents, 13,000 stoves and 300 heaters for immediate assistance to the returnees.

Through its partners on the ground, the agency has also been talking to displaced people outside the city to assess their needs and intentions to return. Many said they intended to stay in their current locations until after the elections at the end of January because of the tense security situation and general lack of services, especially schools and hospitals.

In late December, UNHCR started distributing emergency supplies in cooperation with the inter-governmental International Organization for Migration (IOM) to 36,000 people displaced from Fallujah.

An assessment conducted by UNHCR’s partner agencies also shows that a number of families have purchased property in their current places of displacement, suggesting that some may be considering settling out of Fallujah for an extended period.

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