Iraq's displaced aren't being forced home: Official
Iraq's minister of migration and displaced persons has denied allegations that internally displaced persons (IDPs) were being forced to return to their homes in unsafe parts of Iraq so that local and parliamentary polls slated for May might be held on schedule.
"We have not seen any evidence of displaced people being forced to return to their homes involuntarily," Migration Minister Jassim Mohammed al-Jaaf said at a press conference convened in Baghdad on Wednesday.
"But there are liberated areas and inhabited areas to which [displaced] people should eventually return," he added.
Al-Jaaf conceded, however, that security personnel had urged some IDPs in Baghdad to return to their homes in "liberated" areas so they might close a number of IDP camps in the capital.
The army's Baghdad Operations Command, which is responsible for maintaining security in Baghdad, recently announced that it hoped to "permanently close" the IDP file once all of Iraq's displaced persons had been repatriated.
Still, al-Jaaf did not rule out the possibility that some camp employees may have taken "unilateral measures" aimed at persuading camp residents to leave.
He stressed, however, that the decision to return to one's home was entirely dependent on the will of the people involved and not subject to force or compulsion.
Last week, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, an NGO, accused certain political parties of strong-arming IDPs to return to their homes -- especially those in the western Anbar province -- to ensure that the May 12 polls were conducted on schedule.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has repeatedly said that the scheduled elections would be held on time.
Jan Kubis, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Iraq, for his part, recently warned that holding elections before IDPs were repatriated could undermine the credibility of the polls.