The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the European Union (EU) have concluded a joint project aimed at delivering life-saving protection services and legal support to marginalised people in the western governorate of Anbar, Iraq. The EU has provided substantial support to the IRC and its partners, with a total contribution of almost 1,860,000 euros, focusing on addressing the urgent needs of at-risk groups, including women, girls, and young children.

More than five years after the end of the conflict with the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) group in Iraq, many communities remain in need of humanitarian and longer-term assistance.

While nearly 5 million Iraqis have returned to their areas of origin, some 1.2 million remain internally displaced. Needs for internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees, and host communities range from immediate life-affirming assistance such as shelter and legal support to longer-term peacebuilding and livelihood assistance. 

Despite the closure of formal IDP camps in Anbar governorate, many areas remain unsafe for returns and lack basic services or livelihood opportunities. For some IDPs, returns to their areas of origin are not possible due to destroyed homes. The durable solutions framework acknowledges that return is not the only dignified and sustainable solution to internal displacement and that options such as resettlement or reintegration must be explored.

Through its EU-funded program running for two years from May 2021 to April 2023, the IRC has successfully provided legal assistance to more than 11,500 Iraqi displaced individuals and returnees in Anbar. A crucial aspect of the IRC's support lies in assisting Iraqi families in obtaining or renewing their civil documentation, enabling them to access schools, jobs, and healthcare.

A lack of civil documentation continues to stand in the way of women and female-headed households achieving their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, employment, and education, for them and their children. They cannot resume their lives when the system is stacked against them like this. There are clear steps officials can take, such as de-linking access to documentation from security procedures that would have an immediate and positive outcome for thousands of vulnerable households.

Samar Abboud, IRC’s Country Director in Iraq, said “Lack of civil documentation exacerbates the challenges faced by families in Iraq, making their ability to rebuild and recover post-conflict more difficult. Without proper documentation, households may face barriers to accessing basic rights such as freedom of movement, education, and welfare schemes. The support of the European Union towards IRC's protection efforts in Iraq is indispensable, as it plays a vital role in ensuring inclusive recovery for all communities and assisting IDPs in achieving durable solutions to their displacement.”

The IRC in Iraq is pleased to be continuing its protection work in conflict-affected governorates as part of the EU-funded Protection Consortium of Iraq. IRC’s protection and legal assistance teams will continue to provide pro-bono legal assistance for households and individuals in need of documentation, awareness sessions in communities to empower Iraqis to access their rights, and systems strengthening at the Baghdad and governorate levels to ensure principled implementation in the justice sector.