31,000 Iraqis to return home under Syrian deal

QAMISHLI: Syrian Kurds have announced a deal with Baghdad for 31,000 displaced Iraqis, mostly women and children, to return from camps in northeastern Syria to Iraq.

Tens of thousands of people live in the camps, which swelled during the months-long battle by a Kurdish-led force against the last vestige of Daesh’s “caliphate.”

“A delegation from the Iraqi Cabinet visited the autonomous administration to discuss the return to Iraq of displaced Iraqis, estimated to number 31,000, and an agreement was reached,” said Kurdish official Mahmud Kero.

“So far 4,000 people have signed up and we are waiting for the Iraqi government to open up the Iraqi border” to begin the returns, he said. Kero said many of the displaced, including children born on Syrian soil, did not have Iraqi identity papers.

“We have asked the Iraqi government to find a solution,” he said.

Those expected to return do not include suspected Daesh fighters who surrendered or were caught fleeing the terror group’s last redoubt and are now held at Kurdish-run jails.

“We have asked for the return of all Iraqis including those accused of belonging to Daesh,” Kero said.

He said they had called for “the trial of those accused of belonging to Daesh on Iraqi soil.”

An Iraqi official said on Tuesday that Baghdad had made preparations for the return of tens of thousands of citizens, most of them “women and children.”

They were mostly displaced from Nineveh and Salaheddin, two provinces north of Baghdad that were once Daesh bastions, said Ali Abbas, an official at the ministry of displacement and migration.

The returnees would be housed in a camp near northwestern Iraq’s Sinjar region, to be completed within two months, he said.

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