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Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees visits Iraq, pledges UNHCR's support through a time of transition

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Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees visits Iraq, pledges UNHCR's support through a time of transition

22 November 2018
UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements visits displaced families in Old Mosul, Iraq.

The Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Ms. Kelly T. Clements, completed a three-day visit to Iraq, where she met with senior Iraqi and Kurdish ministers in Baghdad and Erbil, members of the international community, and visited recovering neighbourhoods in Mosul, and camps for displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees.

To support Iraq through its transition out of crisis, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is gradually shifting its focus from emergency response to longer-term planning for refugees and displaced Iraqis. The Agency is actively seeking ways to support them through national systems whether they are returning home or remaining in camps and host communities. Cash assistance is a crucial part of UNHCR’s programmes, providing a lifeline for vulnerable families as they transition out of dependence on humanitarian assistance and secure access to national welfare systems. So far this year, over 200,000 returning families received cash assistance from UNHCR to support them as they resumed normal life.

During her visit, Ms. Clements travelled to West Mosul where families welcomed her into the homes they are rebuilding with cash grants from UNHCR. This project will reach over 800 vulnerable families who use the cash to buy the materials needed to repair their heavily damaged houses.

“Yesterday in the Old City of Mosul, we saw the extent of the devastation. There wasn’t a building untouched by the conflict,” said Ms. Clements. “The task ahead for the Iraqi people is immense, but the will to move forward is clear. The families we met in Mosul and in camps for displaced people and refugees are looking to the future, and the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities want to support them. UNHCR and the many partners supporting the humanitarian response here are committed to standing with the Iraqi people through this time of transition and towards a brighter future.”

She also visited the office of the Directorate of Civil Affairs, where UNHCR supports the Government to issue civil identity documents. Government officials told Ms. Clements that they had issued 1 million National Unified Cards since re-opening the office in Mosul, the new identity card that enables Iraqis to access basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement. Without these documents, displaced and returning families face obstacles to rebuilding their lives and their communities.

For the quarter of a million Syrian refugees seeking protection in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, UNHCR is working with government authorities to take a progressive approach to find real and meaningful solutions to displacement. In close collaboration with the Kurdish authorities and partner agencies, UNHCR is implementing a strategy to ensure Syrian refugees achieve self-sufficiency and access their legal, social and economic rights. The strategy invests in host communities and public services, promotes access to education and health, and encourages economic activity to help refugees realize their potential.

“We sensed real hope for the future of Iraq and those who have sought protection here,” continued Ms. Clements. “The energy for change is tangible. There is a collective will to find sustainable solutions for people affected by recent conflicts. UNHCR is proud to be a dynamic part of this transformation.”

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