In case the criterion of ‘safety’ is satisfied, as a next step, it has to be established whether an applicant can:
The general situation and the individual circumstances of the applicant should be taken into account when assessing whether he or she can safely and legally travel and gain admittance to a part of the country.
It should be noted that in the context of Iraq and in particular the security measures related to ISIL, the three requirements cannot be clearly differentiated.
In November 2019, UNHCR reported that security screenings remain in place for persons from formerly ISIL-held or conflict-affected areas. Access bans have been lifted, while sponsorship requirements remain in place for entry to and residency in several governorates for persons from formerly ISIL-held or conflict-affected areas, particularly Sunni Arabs.
It should also be noted that crossing checkpoints is a fact of daily life in Iraq. Passing through checkpoints requires giving one’s identity by providing identification papers, including at least their national ID and citizenship card. In addition to some permanent checkpoints, temporary checkpoints may also be established [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 1.3.7].
The multitude of security checkpoints, which may be operated by a variety of security actors in the same area, often lack coordination. Due to the lack of clear rules, checkpoints may run at the whims of the different actors operating them. In many cases, ethnic or religious affiliation is used by the different militias operating checkpoints to allow or deny access to that particular region or governorate of Iraq, sometimes with immediate consequences for the safety of individuals. For instance, security clearances are required and often denied to members of families perceived as affiliated to extremist groups and IDPs who had lived under ISIL. [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 1.3.7].
✓ Safely travel – there should be a safe route, which the applicant can practically travel through without undue difficulty, so that he or she can access the area of IPA without serious risks.
■ Baghdad: Baghdad International Airport is located 16 kilometres west of downtown Baghdad.
■Basrah: Basrah International Airport is located 10.5 kilometres from the city centre and is the second largest airport.
■ Erbil: Erbil International Airport is located 9 kilometres from the city centre.
Road travel in Iraq is described as dangerous due to continued road-side bombings and attacks on vehicles, false checkpoints, and robbery. Attacks by ISIL and other criminal groups are also carried out against checkpoints controlled by government forces or during clearing operations. According to reports, ISIL is targeting highways serving civilian traffic, transportation of oil, gas and commodities in the western, eastern and northern governorates. The tactics of ISIL also involve hostage-taking at fake checkpoints, in which civilians and military are kidnapped and executed by ISIL fighters, who are sometimes disguised as militia members. PMU have been reported to run false checkpoints, illicitly levying fees from truck drivers crossing them. [Security situation 2020, 1.4.1, 2.4.3, 2.7.1 ].
✓ Legally travel – there should be no legal obstacles that prevent the applicant from travelling to the safe area.
Iraqis have freedom of movement, travel and residence inside and outside Iraq provided for under Article 44 of the Iraqi Constitution. The Constitution also provides that ‘no Iraqi may be exiled, displaced, or deprived from returning to the homeland’.
✓ Gain admittance to – the applicant should be allowed to access the safe area by the actor(s) who control it.
According to Iraq’s National Policy on Displacement ‘The Government ensures that a person's freedom of movement and choice of place of residence will not be subject to any restrictions save those maintained by the law as they are deemed necessary for reasons pertaining to national security, public order or health, morals or other people's rights and freedoms.’ The National Policy on Displacement provides for a broad range of IDP rights to protection, legal status, basic social services, health, food, shelter, freedom of expression and freedom of movement [Internal mobility, 1.3].
Albeit the above-mentioned Iraq’s National Policy, in practice the movement, residency and gaining admittance to and access to viable services such as education and healthcare, is restricted by numerous requirements, such as security clearances and identification document requirements [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 1.3.7]. According to COI sources, rules, regulations and security procedures for IDPs entering KRI do not fall under any law and are subject to change due to security and political developments. In general, it is found that access to the KRI has improved in recent years [Internal mobility, 3.4].
It should be noted that access and residency requirements are not always clearly defined and/or implementation can vary or be subject to changes depending mostly on the security situation. Sponsorship requirements are generally not grounded in law and are not officially announced. Moreover, in some areas, persons from formerly ISIL-held or conflict-affected areas may be pressured by local authorities or other actors to return to an area previously held by ISIL. Cases of forced returns of IDPs, notably through the closure and merging of camps, were reported, particularly in Ninewa, Salah al-Din, Anbar and Kirkuk, and often resulted in secondary displacement.
Information on the access and residency requirements for the cities of Baghdad, Basrah and Erbil is provided below.
 UNHCR, Iraq: Relevant Country of Origin Information to Assist with the Application of UNHCR's Country Guidance on Iraq: Ability of Persons Originating from Formerly ISIS-Held or Conflict-Affected Areas to Legally Access and Remain in Proposed Areas of Internal Relocation, was published on 11 January 2021, after the drafting process of the ‘Country Guidance: Iraq’ was completed. The UNHCR document may additionally be referred to for more recent information on the topic; it is available at https://www.refworld.org/docid/5ffc243b4.html [back to text]