Fleeing persecution, refugees are now going home

Written by Jarno Roettgers, CNN

In 2014, in the shadow of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, about 450 migrants from the former Soviet republic of Belarus were given temporary sanctuary in the Kurdish region of Iraq. It was a most unusual arrangement that raised ethical questions among the donors who gave them shelter and worried about the impact of the sudden influx on local communities.

By July 2015, however, most of the refugees had left the Kurdish region. But an airplane returning them from Iran on Sunday landed at a refugee camp in Kurdistan. And that is where some of the same refugees, who say they were saved from persecution, are now back in the country they had fled.

“They were treated well in Saddam’s Iraq, and it is easy to understand why the current Iraqi government refuses to give refugees their proper rights,” said Howard Turnage, who investigated the issue on behalf of Open Society Foundations. “However, it is equally easy to understand why some of these people would willingly return home under the right conditions.”

Ortega Andrea, left, and friends in Iraq. Credit: Open Society Foundations

The cases illustrate the difficulty of trying to regulate migration from one country to another. Faced with refugees arriving at their borders from other parts of the world, governments have not always tried to protect refugees or made efforts to minimize their impact on local economies.

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