Iraq IDP Figures Analysis

IDMC estimates that at least 3.3 million Iraqis were internally displaced as of 31 December 2015.*


*These are preliminary estimates that will be subject to review in the context of the finalisation of IDMC's 2016 yearly report on internal displacement, to be published in May 2016.

IDMC’s displacement figure for Iraq is based on estimates published by IOM and the UN – including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UNHCR, and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) – as well as data published by national and local authorities. 

IDMC’s figure is based only on estimates that cover displacements from January 2014 onwards. However it is important to note that about 1.1 million IDPs were still living in displacement following the 2006-2008 sectarian conflict (see below), therefore the total figure could be significantly higher. Moreover, displacement prior to 2003 is not taken into account in the above figure as reliable data is not available (see below).

Limits of data collection

The main means of tracking displacement is IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) and registration figures provided by the Kurdish authorities and the Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoDM). In coordination with the MoDM and a wide range of stakeholders, the DTM supports the United Nations Country Team’s (UNCT) efforts to track displacement. 

Despite the DTM’s long-standing presence and use in Iraq, and a strong relationship with local communities, the actual number and location of IDPs is difficult to track. IDP figures are often revised due to the volatility of the security situation, fluidity of population movements and frequent access restrictions. Poor internet and phone connections, combined with movement restrictions, often prevent rapid assessment response team members from verifying information with key informants. The frustration of local communities with the failure of humanitarian assistance to meet their needs has also affected their willingness to participate in information collection (IOM, DTM, 2015).

Displacement from 2006 to 2008

While military operations in 2004 caused some displacement, the number of IDPs was estimated not to have exceeded 150,000 and most of it was temporary, with the majority returning home before the 2006 sectarian violence (Brookings, October 2006). Between 2006 and 2008, Iraq witnessed an unprecedented displacement crisis in the region, reaching as many as 2.8 million IDPs and 1.9 million refugees (IDMC, March 2010). In early 2014, UNHCR estimated that there were still up to 1.1 million IDPs while the Iraqi authorities registered 954,128 IDPs (UNHCR, 11 February 2014). 

Displacement from 2003 to 2004

While military operations in 2004, particularly in Fallujah, Najaf, Kufa, Karbala and Samarra caused some displacement, the numbers displaced due to military operations in 2003 to 2004 was estimated not to have exceeded 150,000 and most of it was temporary, with the majority returning home before the 2006 sectarian violence overswept all of these displacements (Brookings, October 2006).

Displacement pre-2003

Over 1 million IDPs are estimated to have been displaced prior to 2003 (Brookings, 2002). The extent to which these IDPs have reached durable solutions remains unclear, and reliable figures are no longer available (IDMC interviews, January 2014).

IDMC uses only the most credible accurate information available. Notwithstanding the caveats and limitations of the source information described above, IDMC believes this to be the best data and is grateful to the partners for sharing it.