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" caused by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and by the ensuing war.


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 dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, and large numbers have left during the Iraq War and its aftermath.

Various ethnic and religious 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 70,000 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 Iraqis, though many did not settle there permanently. Facing international pressure, the United States agreed to allow Iraqis in the Rafha refugee camp in Saudi Arabia to resettle 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, San Diego and Phoenix.[1]

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.[2] 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 between 250,000 and half 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

Rank Country Capital Centres of Iraqi population № of Iraqis Further info
1  Iraq Baghdad Entire Country 37,000,000[3]
2  Syria Damascus Damascus, Aleppo 2,000,000[4] Iraqis in Syria
3  Jordan Amman Amman 1,000,000 Iraqis in Jordan
4  United Kingdom London London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Derby, Cardiff and Glasgow. 250,000[5] Iraqis in the United Kingdom
5  Israel Jerusalem Jerusalem, Ramat Gan 250,000[6] Iraqis in Israel, (Iraqi Jews)
6  Iran Tehran Tehran, Qom, Ahvaz, Elam, Shiraz, Mashhad 203,000[7] Iraqis in Iran
7  Egypt Cairo Cairo, Alexandria 150,000[8][9] Iraqis in Egypt
8  Germany Berlin Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg 150,000[10] Iraqis in Germany
9  Sweden Stockholm Stockholm (Södertälje), Malmö[11] 117,919[12] Iraqis in Sweden
10  Lebanon Beirut Beirut, Roumieh, Baalbeck, Beqaa, Nabatiyeh, Baabda, Aley, Matn, Tyre, Sidon, Hermel, Zahlé, Bint Jbeil, Chouf, Jbeil, Tripoli, Koura[13] 100,000[14] Iraqis in Lebanon
11  United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi 100,000[15] Iraqis in the United Arab Emirates
12  Yemen Sana'a 100,000[16] Iraqis in Yemen
13  Turkey Ankara Ankara, Istanbul 60,000-90,000 Iraqis in Turkey
14  Australia Canberra Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Victoria (Australia) 80,000[17] Iraqis in Australia
15  Greece Athens 5,000-40,000[18] Iraqis in Greece
16  United States Washington DC Detroit, Chicago, San Diego, Phoenix, Michigan 37,714 (0.01%) Iraqi American
17  Canada Ottawa Vancouver, Montreal 36,000[19] Iraqi Canadian
18  Saudi Arabia Riyadh 33,000[20] Iraqis in Saudi Arabia
19  Libya Tripoli 30,000[21] Iraqis in Libya
20  Norway Oslo Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Bærum, Trondheim, Drammen, Kristiansand, Fredrikstad, Asker[22] 29 000 (2012 est.)[23] Iraqis in Norway
21  Algeria Algiers 20,000[24] Iraqis in Algeria
22  Kuwait Kuwait City 13,000[25] Iraqis in Kuwait
23  Denmark Copenhagen 12,000[26] to 15,000 Iraqis in Denmark
24  Qatar Doha 8976[27]
25  New Zealand Wellington Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch 6000+ (2006 Census)[28] Iraqis in New Zealand
26  India New Delhi Kanpur, Kolkata, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Mangalore, Udupi 6000+ (2011 Census) Iraqis in India


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 30,000.[24]


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.[8]

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.[29][30]

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.[31]


The current Iraqi population in Libya is estimated at around 30,000.[21]


United States

Main Article: Iraqi American, about 200,000 Iraqis or Americans of Iraqi descent. According to the Arab American Institute, the Iraqi population in the USA is 350,000–400,000 and the hub of Iraqi Americans is in Chicago. Since 2000, more than 33,000 have gained legal entry to the United States.[32]


An estimate of over 50,000 Iraqis live in Canada.[33]

Puerto Rico

25,000 Iraqis, either permanent residents or refugees await entry to the United States, live in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.


Approximately 340,000 Iraqi refugees have emigrated to Brazil, where there's already a large Arab population.[34]


There are around 56,000 Iraqis in Chile, including hundreds of Palestinian refugees from post-2003 Iraq.[35] Iraqis now rank second place to Palestinians among the top five Arab Chilean nationalities.


Approximately 120,000 Iraqis live in Argentina, including around 72,000 refugees, followed by even more Syrian refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War (2011–), and they settle in Argentina's Arab communities.[36]


Further Information: Iraqi diaspora in Europe


The total Austrian population of Iraqi refugees is 5,559[37]


The total Bulgarian population of Iraqi refugees is around 43,210.[38]


A recent influx of Iraqi refugees arrived in Finland, numbering at around 1,600.[39]


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.[40][41]

Some reports claim that there are 1,300 Iraqi refugees living in France.[42]


The number of Iraqis in Germany is estimated at around 150,000[10] In 2006, out of 2,727 asylum applications for Iraqi refugees, only 8.3 percent were accepted.[43] Some sources claim there to be just around 40,000 Iraqi refugees residing in Germany.[44] In 2006, Germany granted just 8.3 percent of Iraqi asylum demands, according to the ministry.[45]


Over 80,000 Iraqi refugees are believed to have come into Greece since 2003. The Greek government wants to resettle most of the refugees, though some refugees are using Greece as a path of entry to other European countries. Greece has long attracted Iraqis and other Arabic-speaking peoples from the Middle East for centuries during Ottoman Turkish times (the late 16th to early 20th centuries) and in the 2000s, many Iraqi and Syrian workers are thought to have arrived from Cyprus to find jobs in Greece.


Approximately 1,200 Iraqi refugees have immigrated to Hungary.[46]


Sources claim there to be 340 Iraqi refugees living in Ireland.[47]


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.[48] Most of these are priests, nuns and seminarians who have come to pursue their studies in Italy.[49] 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.[50]

In November 2007, 1,800 Iraqi Kurds sought refugee in Italy, of which only 20 of them applied for asylum and the other received 15-day expulsion orders.[51]


Sources claim there are 450 Iraqi refugees living in Romania.[52]


Significant groups of Iraqis have emigrated to Russia as early as the 1990s.[53] 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.[54] 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.[53] The number of Iraqi refugees in Russia is unknown, but may exceed 50,000 in the year 2009. Iraqi Christians like Assyrians migrated to Russia in the early 20th century.


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.[55] There are roughly about 13,700 asylum seekers in Spain, and a further 642 Iraqis hold residency permits.[56]

Iraqi immigration to Spain accounted for 1,706 permanent residents in the year 2006.


Main article: Iraqis in Sweden

Iraqis in Sweden numbered over 70,000,[57] are one of the largest ethnic groups living in Sweden as of 2005, second to Swedes and Finns.[58] The mass influx of Iraqi refugees has increased dramatically during the last years, with up to 40,000 Iraqis expected to seek asylum in 2007.[59] Some sources claim there to be around 80,000 Iraqis living in Sweden with Swedish citizenship, along with hundreds of new applications for asylum from Iraqis every month.[58]


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".[60][61]

United Kingdom

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


Further Information: Iraqi diaspora in Western Asia


Sources claim 460 Iraqi refugees are living in Armenia.


Further information: Assyrians in Georgia

The Republic of Georgia has over 10,000 Iraqi refugees at this time, and a long history of Assyrians resided in the Caucasus region, including the republics of Abkhazia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and South Ossetia.


Unlike as with the North American and Europeans nations, where Iraqis have migrated only in modern times, Iraqis have migrated to India over centuries. During the 16th century hundreds of Iraqi origin people migrated to the present-day country of India for trade reasons. They are known as Iraqi biradri and are a well known Sunni Muslim group in India. The current population is estimated to be around 200,000. The community has though preserved their Iraqi culture over the past few hundred years. Many of the culinary items prepared by the community also resemble Iraqi cuisine. There is also a small population of the Banu Asad tribe residing in south-west Karnataka. They migrated to India during the reign of Tipu Sultan. They are Sunni.


In 1951, about 120,000 Iraqi Jews fled to Israel. A number of Jews of Iraqi descent keep their unique traditions, cuisine, culture. The number of Iraqi Jews in Israel, is nearly 600,000.


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.[62] According to the UNHCR, only 427 Iraqis have been registered as asylum seekers and 18 Iraqis have been recognized as refugees in Kuwait.[62]

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.[62]

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.[25]


See also: Iraqi biradri

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 Iraqis chose Pakistan as a conduit nation in their quest to enter Europe and America. It is believed that triple the current estimates of Iraqis living in Pakistan have passed through the nation though exact figures are difficult to attain.[63]


The UNHCR reported that more than 81,000 refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan have arrived to Turkey in 2014. Most of the Iraqi refugees had to flee their cities due to the ISIS attacks.[64]


The current population of Iraqis in Qatar stood at 8,976 as of 2014, according to the Iraqi embassy in Doha.

United Arab Emirates

The current population of Iraqis in the United Arab Emirates is estimated to be around 100,000.[15]


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.[16]

See also


  1. "Iraqi community influx in Arizona". 2010-03-07. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
  2. Woollacott, Martin (2002-08-16). "One in six Iraqis are in exile, and they want this war". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
  3. "Iraq". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  4. NGO's claim Iraqis have hit 2 million in Syria
  5. Iraqis far from home sign up to vote - International Herald Tribune
  6. Baghdad's last rabbi to leave Iraq - Haaretz - Israel News
  7. "The 2001 Iran census states that there are 203,000 ethnic Iraqis living in Iran". Retrieved 2007-09-02.
  8. 1 2 "Iraqis In Egypt". Retrieved 2007-08-18.
  9. 150 displaced in Egypt, only 5,000 Iraqi refugees registered
  10. 1 2 "Population pressures". Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  11. "Iraqis in Europe" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  12. "Foreign-born persons in Sweden by country of birth and sex. Year 2000-2009". Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  13. "Iraqi Population Survey in Lebanon" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  14. "Iraqis In Lebanon". Retrieved 2007-08-15.
  15. 1 2 BuzzFlash > World Media Watch > 1/21/05
  16. 1 2 "Iraqis In Yemen". Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  18. "Iraqi community in Greece" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 17, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
  19. "Iraqi exiles to vote in 14 states". BBC News. 2005-01-06. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
  20. "The UNHCR states that there are 33,000 ethnic Iraqis living in Saudi Arabia.". Retrieved 2007-09-02.
  21. 1 2 "Iraqis In Libya". Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  23. Personer med innvandringsbakgrunn, etter innvandringskategori, landbakgrunn og kjønn. 1. januar 2012 Statistics Norway. Retrieved December 6, 2012
  24. 1 2 "Iraqis In Algeria". Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  25. 1 2 Refugees International: Countries: Kuwait
  26. Germany accepts Iraqi refugees
  27. Qatar´s population by nationality bq magazine
  28. Other Middle Eastern peoples, in Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.
  29. Press Releases: Iraq, Egypt: Respond to the needs of Iraqi refugees
  30. Weaver, Matthew (2006-12-07). "Warning over spiralling Iraq refugee crisis". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
  31. Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Cairo and Baghdad to link
  32. Aaron, Terrazas. "Iraqi Immigrants in the United States". Immigration policy. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  33. UReach, Toronto. "Iraqis in Canada". Reach Toronto. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  37. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  38. ""Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 43,210 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Bulgaria" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  39. Displaced Iraqis around the world at the Wayback Machine (archived June 13, 2007)
  40. "13 Iraqi refugees accepted". Retrieved 2007-08-17.
  42. ""Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 1,300 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in France" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  43. The Iraqi Exodus:Number of Iraqi refugees in Germany Surges
  44. Iraqi refugees in European nations
  45. Refugees find Germany "1000 times better than Iraq"
  46. ""Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 1,200 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Hungary" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  47. ""Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 340 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Ireland" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  48. ""Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 94,300 ethnic Iraqis living in Italy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  49. ""Asia News" states that there are 1,068 ethnic Iraqis living in Italy". Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  51. Migration News - Migration Dialogue
  52. ""Global Overview Statistics Report" states that there are 450 ethnic Iraqi Refugees living in Romania" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  53. 1 2 Cienski, Jan (1994). "Chilly reception for refugees in Russia". Refugee Magazine. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (98).
  54. "Russia Agreed First to Receive Iraqi Refugees". Pravda. 2003-04-01. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
  55. UNHCR | Iraq
  56. UNHCR | Iraq
  57. "Sweden tightens rules on Iraqi asylum seekers". Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  58. 1 2 "Iraqi refugees find shelter in Sweden". Retrieved 2007-08-14.
  59. "Iraqis Refugees in Sweden". Retrieved 2007-08-14.
  60. People's Daily Online - Switzerland decides against more refugees from Iraq
  61. Report on Displaced Iraqis at the Wayback Machine (archived June 13, 2007)
  62. 1 2 3 "Iraqis In Kuwait". Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  63. "IRAQ-PAKISTAN: Iraqi refugees in limbo awaiting third country resettlement".
  64. "2015 UNHCR subregional operations". UNHCR. Retrieved 21 July 2015.

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