Nearly two thirds of homes belonging to Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs) or refugees that were occupied by squatters have been evacuated since mid-2008. Sadiq Amer, who runs one of the two main offices of Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration in Baghdad, said squatters had taken over 3,099 homes of IDPs and refugees as of July 2008, after which the government ordered their evacuation to encourage returns. Amer said 18,123 IDP and refugee families had returned to Karkh and 14,000 families to Rasafa as of 5 January. Since July 2008, the government has made a concerted effort to encourage the return of IDPs and refugees to the areas of origin. One element of this initiative was to crackdown on squatters by offering them a one-off payment of 1.8 million Iraqi dinars (USD 1,525) to assist them in finding legitimate accommodation to rent. (IRIN)

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