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Iraqis returning home: Propoganda v the facts

Patrick Cockburn has been reporting for The Independent from Iraq for many years now. His reports can be considered more accurate than the PR pumped out by what is left of the Coalition of the Willing - now a rag-tag collection of countries apart from the US.

In his latest piece from Baghdad, Cockburn reports on the reluctance of Iraqis, who left the country mainly for Syria, to return to their former war-torn homeland:

"To show that Iraq was safe enough for the two million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan to return, the Iraqi government organised a bus convoy last November from Damascus to Baghdad carrying 800 Iraqis home for free.

As a propaganda exercise designed to show that the Iraqi government was restoring peace, it never quite worked. The majority of the returnees said they were returning to Baghdad, not because it was safer, but because they had run out of money in Syria or their visas had expired.

There has been no mass return of the two million Iraqis who fled to Syria and Jordan or a further 2.4 million refugees who left their homes within Iraq. The latest figures from the UN High Commission for Refugees show that, on the contrary, the number of people entering Syria from Iraq was 1,200 a day in late January "while an average of 700 are going back to Iraq from Syria".

The reasons people are not going back, despite new stringent visa regulations in Syria, are that they know Baghdad is very dangerous, the chances of making a living are small and there is a continuing lack of electricity and water."

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