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2,000 Iraqis Return to Eastern Baghdad, Reclaim Homes

Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 28, 2008 – Iraqi officials recently reported that more than 2,000 Iraqi families have returned to their homes in eastern Baghdad this year.

The 2,084 returning families left their homes in the districts of Rusafa, Karadah and 9 Nissan due to security concerns. Categorized as Internally Displaced Persons, they have returned to a more secure and safe environment.

The number of returnees in the area is a sign of vastly improved security conditions, said Army Lt. Col. Eric Holliday, deputy team leader of Baghdad-2 embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team.

"The more returnees we get back into the neighborhoods from where they were originally displaced tells us these people feel safe enough to return to those areas and they don't think there is going to be further violence," expressed Holliday. "When we have them return and we don't have any incidents of further violence ... then it has been fairly successful in our area. That is a measure of effectiveness telling us we are doing our job right."

Iraq's Ministry of Migrations and Displaced Persons is responsible for tracking IDPs and IDP returnees. They report the number of Iraqi citizens who register with IDP centers weekly. Holliday said there is an IDP center in Rusafa that issues reports about homeowners returning to eastern Baghdad.

"Their job is to register all IDPs that have displaced into our area and also to register all returnees - those are IDPs that were displaced to other areas that are returning to their homes," explained Holliday of the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade.

"They (returnees) receive a stipend from the government,'" he said. "It's been running somewhere around one million to three million dinars, which equates to about $1,000 to $3,000 per returnee."

To receive stipends and reclaim their homes, IDP returnees must register with the ministry and provide proof of ownership. Other forms of government support also are available to these citizens.

Returning residents are eligible to seek employment through the Government of Iraq's civil service district, even though the governmentI did not specifically create the program to assist displaced persons. In addition, the MOMDP coordinates for ISF to assist homeowners in evicting squatters if they are living in the returnees' homes.

Holliday said the e-PRT and Patriot Brigade Soldiers mostly monitor the IDP situation and track the government of Iraq numbers of IDP returneesin their area . Iraqi officials do a good job of helping IDPs and addressing their concerns, he commented.

"In our area, we have had no incidents of any violence against returnees that I am aware of," he said. "When you move around eastern Baghdad these days, you can see that things are better; there is better security," said Holliday. "People are out shopping; people are out in the parks, and people are moving on with their lives - and they have a better outlook on life."

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, welcome the citizens back to the area as they reclaim their homes, said Maj. Joey Sullinger, a 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division spokesperson.

The Patriot Brigade is reaching the end of its 14-month deployment.

"We are happy to have assisted Iraqi Security Forces while we were here," Sullinger said. We hope these returning residents fully embrace the Iraqi forces truly responsible for providing the safety and security, allowing them to come home to their neighborhoods."

(Multi-National Corps Iraq Press Release)

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