Iraqi diaspora

Iraqi diaspora

The Iraqi diaspora refers to native Iraqis who have left for other countries as emigrants or refugees, and is now one of the largest in modern times, being described by the UN as a "humanitarian crisis" largely due to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


The Iraqi diaspora is not a sudden exodus but one that has grown exponentially through the 20th century as each generation faced some form of radical transition or political conflict. There were at least two large waves of expatriation. A great number of Iraqis left the country during the government of Saddam Hussein, and large numbers have left during the Second Gulf War and its aftermath.

Iraq, to some extent, has a history of emigration of its various ethnic populations before the current war. The Jewish community which had been there since 586 BC left or were forced to leave shortly after the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. The Iraqi Jewish population of 120,000 almost sixty years later has grown to 250,000 to 400,000 in Israel, approximately 1/24th of the population, but it is culturally and politically significant. In Israel, Jews of Iraqi descent are called Sefardim. Iraq has only "about a dozen" Jews. [ [ Baghdad's last rabbi to leave Iraq - Haaretz - Israel News ] ]

Other populations have also been displaced or relocated. The Assyrian people have dealt with a century long dispersion of its people. Another ethnic group are the Mandeans, who numbered around 40,000 before the current war. Now, the last practising Gnostic sect in the Middle East has almost entirely left Iraq.

During the first Gulf War, Iran provided refuge for 1.4 million Iraqi's, though many did not settle their permanently. Facing international pressure, the United States agreed to allow Iraqi's in the Rafha refugee camp in Saudi Arabia to restle in America. Through 2002, over 32,000 Iraqi refugees had been resettled in the United States; they joined a population of non-refugee Iraqis in America, bringing the total to about 90,000 Iraqis in the US, most notably in Detroit, Chicago and San Diego.

The history of emigration and of the diaspora community then drastically changed with the invasion of Iraq in 2003. There are many sources claiming different amounts of displaced Iraqis. Some claim as low as 1.2 million people have left Iraq, while others claim this number to be around 4-5 million. [ [,3604,775294,00.html Martin Woollacott: One in six Iraqis are in exile | World news | "The Guardian" ] ] It is difficult to gauge an accurate number of how many Iraqis seek refuge in other nations because of the constant outflow of Iraqis.

According to "UN statistics on displaced Iraqis around the world" of September 2007, Syria and Jordan are absorbing 44 per cent of displaced Iraqis globally. Other countries have also received Iraqis. Egypt, which has pledged to end Iraqi immigration, already has 150,000 ethnic Iraqi people. The United Kingdom, whose Iraqi population comes largely if not entirely from before the 2003 Iraq war, has a population numbering a quarter of a million. Iran also has approximately 204,000 Iraqi expatriates. And, in Lebanon, notably due to West of Syria has 100,000 refugees. Sweden has allowed 18,000 refugees to enter, by far the most of any European country, but has indicated that it too plans on tightening restrictions.

Current number of Iraqis in all countries

=Locations=The following countries have hosted Iraqi refugees. This list is by no means conclusive.



The current population of Iraqis living in Algeria is estimated at around 20,000.


Since the Iraq war in 2003, Egypt has allowed a number of Iraqi refugees in the country. The current Iraqi population in Egypt stands at around 150,000.

However, it is reported that Egypt is closing its doors to Iraqis. The precise reasons are unknown but according to ReliefWeb, one reason, apart from the fact that refugees are a strain on an already fragile economy, Egypt does not want Iraq to become a Shia state, as most refugees to the country are believed to be Sunni. [ [ Press Releases: Iraq, Egypt: Respond to the needs of Iraqi refugees ] ] [ [,,1966333,00.html Warning over spiralling Iraq refugee crisis | World news | ] ]

Since January 2007, more stringent laws have been applied restricting the entry of new refugees. Egypt fears that the arrival of more refugees may increase prices in real estate, potentially causing resentment towards Iraqis by Egyptians. Another reason is that Egypt fears the arrival of Iraqis belonging to different sects, possibly causing sectarian strife. The vast majority of refugees fleeing to Egypt are Sunni Muslims, therefore changing the demographics of certain regions within Iraq. Demands of building Shia mosques and shrines in Egypt by Iraqis have been rejected by the authorities. [ [ Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Cairo and Baghdad to link ] ]


The current Iraqi population in Libya is estimated at around 30,000.



Approximately 51,000 Iraqi refugees have immigrated to Brazil, and there are more 100,000 ethnic Iraqi in Brazil .


"Further Information: Iraqi diaspora in Europe"


There has long been a well-established Armenian population in Iraq, due to the Armenian genocide. However, since the United States-led invasion of Iraq, many Iraqis now have sought refuge in Armenia. Some sources claim 460 Iraqi refugees living in Armenia.cite web | url = | title ="Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 460 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Armenia | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher]


The total Austrian population of Iraqi refugees is around 1,200.cite web | url = | title ="Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 1,200 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Austria | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher]


The total Bulgarian population of Iraqi refugees is around 43,210.cite web | url = | title ="Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 43,210 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Bulgaria | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher]


Denmark has been a strong host nation to Iraqi refugees, where there are approximately 12,000. Iraqis are one of the largest Arab ethnic groups living in Denmark. This is partially due to the large number of Kurds who have emigrated from northern Iraq.


A recent influx of Iraqi refugees arrived in Finland, numbering at around 1,600. [ [ Displaced Iraqis around the world] ]


The current population of Iraqis in France is estimated at around 8,200.However, it has been reported that since the invasion of Iraq, France has only accepted 13 refugees.cite web | url = | title =13 Iraqi refugees accepted | accessdate =2007-08-17 | publisher] [ [ FRANCE AND BRITAIN KEEPING IRAQI REFUGEES OUT] ]

Some reports claim that there are 1,300 Iraqi refugees living in France.cite web | url = | title ="Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 1,300 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in France | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher]


The number of Iraqis in Germany is estimated at around 150,000 In 2006, out of 2,727 asylum applications for Iraqi refugees, only 8.3 percent were accepted. [ [,1518,507444,00.html The Iraqi Exodus:Number of Iraqi refugees in Germany Surges] ] Some sources claim there to be just around 40,000 Iraqi refugees residing in Germany. [ [ Iraqi refugees in European nations] ] In 2006, Germany granted just 8.3 percent of Iraqi asylum demands, according to the ministry. [ [ Refugees find Germany "1000 times better than Iraq"] ]


Approximately 1,200 Iraqi refugees have immigrated to Hungary.cite web | url = | title ="Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 1,200 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Hungary | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher]


Sources claim there to be 340 Iraqi refugees living in Ireland.cite web | url = | title ="Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 340 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Ireland | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher]


The current population of Iraqis in Italy stands at around 17,300; however one source claims there to be 56,300, which is approximately 50 families. cite web | url = | title ="Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 94,300 ethnic Iraqis living in Italy | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher] Most of these are priests, nuns and seminarians who have come to pursue their studies in Italy. cite web | url = | title ="Asia News" states that there are 1,068 ethnic Iraqis living in Italy | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher] The majority are residents of Rome.

There have been recent appeals from the Iraqi community living in Italy to free any Italian and Iraqi Italian residents currently working in Iraq. []

In November 2007, 1800 Iraqi Kurds sought refugee in Italy, of which only 20 of them applied for asylum and the other received 15 day expulsion orders. [ [ Migration News - Migration Dialogue ] ]


Sources claim there are 450 Iraqi refugees living in Romania.cite web | url = | title ="Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 450 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Romania | accessdate =2007-09-07 | publisher]


Significant groups of Iraqis have emigrated to Russia as early as the 1990s.cite journal|journal=Refugee Magazine|issue=98|title=Chilly reception for refugees in Russia|last=Cienski|first=Jan|date=1994|url=|publisher=United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] Iran credits Russia with being one of the first countries to provide concrete assistance in processing Iraqi refugees; Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry began preparing two sites for refugee camps in western Iran in April 2003. [cite news|work=Pravda|title=Russia Agreed First to Receive Iraqi Refugees|url=|date=2003-04-01|accessdate=2007-12-13] However, Iraqis admitted to Russia often find themselves the targets of racism; as with Afghan refugees, they are mistaken for migrants from the Caucasus, who are stereotyped in Russia as drug dealers and criminals.


The current population of Iraqis in Spain are unknown; however, since the Iraq war, Spain has been host to 45 Iraqi refugees. An additional 42 Iraqis requested asylum in 2006. [ [ UNHCR | Iraq ] ] There are roughly about 13,700 asylum seekers in Spain, and a further 642 Iraqis hold residency permits. [ [ UNHCR | Iraq ] ]

Iraqi immigration to Spain accounted for 1706 permanent residents in the year 2006.


The current population of Iraqis in Switzerland is estimated to be around 5,000. However, the Swiss government is currently closing doors to future Iraqi refugees, and offering to send external aid instead. Christoph Blocher, the Swiss Justice and Police Minister, stated that "We already have 5,000 Iraqis in Switzerland and our country is in second place in Europe in accepting them". [ [ People's Daily Online - Switzerland decides against more refugees from Iraq ] ] [ [ Report on Displaced Iraqis] ]


Turkish citizens of Iraqi heritage currently number around 60,000-90,000.Turkey currently hosts 600 recognized Iraqi refugees. The Turkish government had approved Iraqi asylum seekers in 2001 by a rate of 78 percent. [ [ Situation Reports: Iraq, Overview of numbers and conditions of Iraqi refugees in the Middle East and internally displaced persons in Iraq ] ] In September 2004 only 407 Iraqis applied to the UNHCR for asylum in Turkey. [ Iraqi Catholic asylum seekers in Turkey suffer neglect and poverty - Turkish Daily News December 04, 2006 ] ] As of June 2006, UNHCR in Ankara had registered only 2,404 Iraqis as asylum seekers in Turkey. [ [ "The Silent Treatment": Fleeing Iraq, Surviving in Jordan: VIII. The Response of Other Countries to Iraqis Fleeing War and Persecution ] ]

Most Iraqi refugees living in Turkey are Christian, mainly Chaldean Catholics, and often face indifference by their Turkish counterparts.

About 13,000 Iraqi Christian refugees are now in Turkey, including 7,000 in Istanbul.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has the largest Iraqi community in the Western World with estimates ranging from 250,000 to 450,000.

Middle East

"Further Information: Iraqi diaspora in the Middle East"


The current Iraqi population in Kuwait is difficult to determine, as there are no official figures, but estimates range from 10,000 to 13,000.cite web | url = | title =Iraqis In Kuwait | accessdate =2007-09-08 | publisher] According to the UNHCR, only 427 Iraqis have been registered as asylum seekers and 18 Iraqis have been recognized as refugees in Kuwait.

Due to poor Iraqi-Kuwaiti relations, Kuwait had previously announced that it will not provide shelter for any Iraqi refugees and will prevent them from entering the country by guarding the border with Saudi Arabian troops. However, Kuwait did announce that they will hold any refugees in a 15 kilometer-wide demilitarized strip on the Iraqi side of the border, where it would provide humanitarian assistance.

Kuwait has maintained strict regulations when considering refugees; however, the country hosted 15,000 Iraqis throughout the 1990s, most of which have resided in Kuwait. Currently, the country shelters some 13,000 Iraqis according to the UNHCR.


The current Iraqi population in Pakistan is estimated at around 150, but exact figures are difficult to ascertain, as many have slipped away into the country's large urban centres unregistered. It is believed that many Iraqi's chose Pakistan as a conduit nation in their quest to enter Europe and America. It is believed that tripple the current estimates of Iraqi's living in Pakistan have passed through the nation though exact figures are difficult to attain.cite web | url= |title=IRAQ-PAKISTAN: Iraqi refugees in limbo awaiting third country resettlement]

United Arab Emirates

The current population of Iraqis in the United Arab Emirates is estimated to be around 100,000.


Since the war in 2003, despite not sharing a border with Iraq, Yemen has become a host country for many Iraqi refugees. However, in 2004, the Yemeni government has changed its policy and currently requires Iraqi nationals to hold visas before letting them into Yemen; this has restricted their entry into the country. It is difficult to estimate how many Iraqis are in Yemen, as the numbers vary frequently, with many arriving and leaving quickly. In 2004, the UNHCR estimated that 100,000 Iraqis were living in Yemen.


In 1951, about 120,000 Iraqi Jews fled to Israel. While not traditionally considered part of the iraqi diaspora, Some Jews of iraqi descent kept their unique traditions, cuisine, culture and sometimes even national sentiment (most notable of those was Samir Naqqash, a renowned writer). Several Israeli Jews exercised their voting rights as Iraqis in the Iraqi elections.

ee also

*Iraqi people
*List of Iraqis
*List of Iraqi Americans
*List of Iraqi Britons
*Refugees of Iraq
*Arab diaspora
*Assyrian diaspora


External links

* [ Diaspora Iraqis homepage]
* [,3604,775294,00.html One in six Iraqis are in exile, and they want this war.] "The Guardian"; August 16, 2002
* [ The New Iraqi Diaspora] "Hii Dunia"; January 31, 2007
* [ From the Cradle of Civilization to the Graveyard?]
* [ IOM Press Note 3 May 2006: Iraqi Diaspora To Help Rebuild Iraq]
* [ "Back to Baghdad: An Iraqi Collaborator Speaks"]
* [ Out-of-Country Voting in Post-Conflict Elections]

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