Most Iraqi refugees regret return: UNHCR

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Most refugees who have returned to Iraq have since regretted their move after finding that they faced persistent threats to their security, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.

Citing findings of a survey on 2,353 Iraqis who went back to the Baghdad districts of Resafa and Karkh between 2007 and 2008, the UNHCR said that six out of 10 returnees said that they regretted the move.

"The survey also found that 34 percent said they were uncertain whether they would stay permanently in Iraq and would consider seeking asylum in neighbouring countries once again if conditions do not improve," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Returnees highlighted instances of "explosions, harassment, military operations and kidnapping" as evidence of the insecurity.

But many also said they had been forced to return to Iraq becase they could no longer afford the high cost of living in asylum countries.

More than three-quarters of returnees did not go back to their original place of residence but sought shelter with their relatives, friends or rented other accommodation.

The UNHCR said it does not promote returns to Iraq, and reiterated that it was "concerned" by some European countries' sending refugees back to the country.

In September, the agency issued a call to halt Iraqi refugee returns, after a group of Iraqis from Britain, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, were flown to Baghdad airport.

© 2010 AFP

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