BAGHDAD -- A top Iraqi official says thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq and refugees from neighboring countries have returned recently and others want to return, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.
Iraqi Immigration and Displacement Minister Abd al-Samad Rahman Sultan says that some 10,700 internally displaced families have returned to their homes in the past three months, and another 950 families have returned from Egypt.
Sultan adds that some 630 Iraqi families in Jordan and 520 families in Syria have applied at Iraqi diplomatic missions in those countries seeking help in facilitating their return.
Sultan says that the increasing rate of IDPs and refugees returning to their homes in Iraq is a sign that this "tragic page" in the country's recent history will soon be turned.
But Abd al-Khaliq Zangana, the chairman of the outgoing parliament's Deportees, Immigrants, and Expatriates Committee, says that "the ministry's euphoric tone is premature as we [still] have some 280,000 internally displaced families."
Zangana says the returnees have sustained large losses of property, valuables, and personal belongings and the government should find some way to compensate them.
He admits that some government decisions and decrees have been issued that provide assistance to returnees, but people who come back complain that the respective government departments are slow in providing aid.
Abd al-Wahid Hassan, a recent returnee to Iraq, says that although his house was looted and seriously damaged, neither the government nor nongovernmental organizations have offered him assistance.
The U.S. Congressional Research Service estimated last year that there might be as many as 2 million Iraqi refugees living in Jordan, Syria, and other neighboring countries, and approximately 2.7 million IDPs.