GENEVA (AFP) — The United Nations refugee agency on Friday expressed concerns over reports Iraqi refugees are returning to the country, particularly from neighbouring Syria, saying there was no large-scale movement.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees "does not believe that the time has come to promote, organise or encourage returns" given the volatile and unpredictable security situation in Iraq, spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told journalists.
"Presently, there is no sign of any large-scale return to Iraq," she added.
More than 1.4 million Iraqis have fled to Syria since the US-led invasion of 2003, but they are coming under increased bureaucratic and financial pressure as the country's social infrastructure struggles with the influx.
A survey by UN staff in Syria found that the majority of returning Iraqi families are doing so because they are running out of money or resources and facing difficult living conditions, or because their visas have expired.
Syria imposed visa requirements on Iraqis from October 1. Those seeking to enter the country must now obtain visas from the Syrian embassy in Baghdad, which are given only for commercial, transport, scientific or educational reasons.
Iraq said earlier this week that it will offer Syria 15 million dollars (10 million euros) to help pay the costs of sheltering refugees.
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