Nearly four million Iraqis displaced by the war on the Islamic State group have returned to their homes, the UN migration agency said in a report released Tuesday.
When IS swept across Iraq in 2014, eventually seizing around one-third of the country, it forced six million Iraqis to flee for safety, said the International Organization for Migration.
The IOM said the six million who were displaced represented around 15 percent of Iraq’s total population.
“For the first time in nearly four years, the number of displaced Iraqis has fallen to below two million,” the agency said. “Nearly four million have returned home.”
According to the IOM, the displaced who have returned home cited several reasons for their decision, including “the improved security situation (and) availability of housing”.
Others said they were encouraged to return by community leaders, friends and relatives, or simply had the financial means to do so.
But those who are still displaced – 1,931,868 people – complain of lack of means and job opportunities, as well as insecurity and of damaged homes and infrastructure, said the IOM.
It said most of those who had gone back were displaced from the northern province of Nineveh – home to Iraq’s second city Mosul and an IS bastion for three years before it was driven out in 2017.
Displaced Iraqis have also gone back in large numbers to the Sunni province of Anbar bordering Syria and scene of the last major battle against IS.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “victory” in December in the fight against IS.
But sleeper cells still operate in the country from sparsely populated areas, including desert regions near the border with Syri