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The Iraqi diaspora refers to native Iraqismarker 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" largely due to the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq.


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 government of Saddam Hussein, and large numbers have left during the Second Gulf War and its aftermath.

Iraq, to some extent, has a history of emigration of its various ethnic populations before the current war. The Jewish community which had been there since 586 BC left or were forced to leave shortly after the founding of the State of Israelmarker in 1948. The Iraqi Jewish population of 120,000 almost sixty years later has grown to 250,000 to 400,000 in Israel, approximately 1/24th of the population, but it is culturally and politically significant. In Israel, Jews of Iraqi descent are called Sefardim. Iraq has only "about a dozen" Jews.

Other 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 40,000 before the current war. Now, the last practising Gnostic sect in the Middle East has almost entirely left Iraq.

During the first Gulf War, Iranmarker provided refuge for 1.4 million Iraqi's, though many did not settle their permanently. Facing international pressure, the United Statesmarker agreed to allow Iraqi's in the Rafha refugee camp in Saudi Arabiamarker to restle 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 Detroitmarker, Chicagomarker and San Diegomarker.

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. 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. Egyptmarker, which has pledged to end Iraqi immigration, already has 150,000 ethnic Iraqi people. The United Kingdommarker, 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 Lebanonmarker, notably due to West of Syria has 100,000 refugees. Swedenmarker 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 Baghdadmarker Entire Country 31,234,000
2 Damascusmarker Damascusmarker, Aleppomarker 2,000,000 Iraqis in Syria
3 Ammanmarker Ammanmarker 1,000,000 Iraqis in Jordan
4 Londonmarker Londonmarker, Birminghammarker, Manchestermarker, Leedsmarker, Derbymarker, Cardiffmarker and Glasgowmarker. 450,000 Iraqis in the United Kingdom
5 Brasiliamarker estimates range from 70,000 to 342,000 Iraqis in Brazil
6 Jerusalemmarker Jerusalemmarker, Ramat Ganmarker 250,000 Iraqis in Israel, (Iraqi Jews)
7 Tehranmarker Tehranmarker, Qommarker, Ahwazmarker, Elammarker, Shirazmarker, Mashadmarker 203,000 Iraqis in Iran
8 Cairomarker Cairomarker, Alexandriamarker 150,000 Iraqis in Egypt
9 Berlinmarker Berlinmarker, Cologne, Hamburgmarker 150,000 Iraqis in Germany
10 Beirutmarker Beirutmarker, Roumieh, Baalbeckmarker, Beqaa, Nabatiyehmarker, Baabdamarker, Aleymarker, Matn, Tyremarker, Sidonmarker, Hermelmarker, Zahlemarker, Bint Jbeilmarker, Chouf, Jbeilmarker, Tripolimarker, Koura 100,000 Iraqis in Lebanon
11 Abu Dhabimarker 100,000 Iraqis in the United Arab Emirates
11 Sanaamarker 100,000 Iraqis in Yemen
12 Ankaramarker Ankaramarker, Istanbulmarker 60,000-90,000 Iraqis in Turkey
13 Canberramarker Sydneymarker, Melbournemarker, Victoria marker 80,000 Iraqis in Australia
14 Stockholmmarker Stockholmmarker (Södertäljemarker), Malmömarker 70,000+ Iraqis in Sweden
15 Santiagomarker 56,000 Iraqis in Chile and Palestinian Chilean due to Palestinians from Iraq.
16 Amsterdammarker 43,000 (0.3%) Iraqis in the Netherlands
17 Havanamarker 40,000 Iraqis in Cuba
18 Athensmarker 5,000-40,000 Iraqis in Greece
19 Washington DCmarker 37,714 (0.01%) Iraqi American
20 Ottawamarker 36,000 Iraqis in Canada
21 Riyadhmarker 33,000 Iraqis in Saudi Arabia
22 Tripolimarker 30,000 Iraqis in Libya
23 Oslomarker Oslomarker, Bergenmarker, Stavangermarker, Bærummarker, Trondheimmarker, Drammenmarker, Kristiansandmarker, Fredrikstadmarker, Askermarker 26, 000 (2008 est.) Iraqis in Norway
24 San Juanmarker 25,000 Iraqis in Puerto Rico
25 Algiersmarker 20,000 Iraqis in Algeria
26 Kuwait Citymarker 13,000 Iraqis in Kuwait
27 Copenhagenmarker 12,000 to 15,000 Iraqis in Denmark


The following countries have hosted Iraqi refugees. This list is by no means conclusive.



The current population of Iraqis living in Algeriamarker is estimated at around 30,000.


Since the Iraq war in 2003, Egyptmarker has allowed a number of Iraqi refugees in the country. The current Iraqi population in Egypt stands at around 150,000.

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.

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.


The current Iraqi population in Libyamarker is estimated at around 30,000.


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+ and the hub of Iraqi Americans is in Chicagomarker.


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

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 Brazilmarker.


There are around 56,000 Iraqis in Chilemarker. Iraqis now rank second place to Palestinians among the top five Arab Chilean nationalities.


Approximately 120,000 Iraqis live in Argentinamarker, including around 72,000 refugees.


Further Information: Iraqi diaspora in Europe


The total Austrianmarker population of Iraqi refugees is around 1,200.


The total Bulgarianmarker population of Iraqi refugees is around 43,210.


A recent influx of Iraqi refugees arrived in Finlandmarker, numbering at around 1,600.


The current population of Iraqis in Francemarker is estimated at around 8,200.However, it has been reported that since the invasion of Iraq, France has only accepted 13 refugees.

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


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


Over 80,000 Iraqi refugees are believed to came 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.


Approximately 1,200 Iraqi refugees have immigrated to Hungarymarker.


Sources claim there to be 340 Iraqi refugees living in Irelandmarker.


The current population of Iraqis in Italymarker stands at around 17,300; however one source claims there to be 56,300, which is approximately 50 families. Most of these are priests, nuns and seminarians who have come to pursue their studies in Italy. The majority are residents of Romemarker.

There have been recent appeals from the Iraqi community living in Italy to free any Italian and Iraqi Italian residents currently working in Iraq.

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.


Sources claim there are 450 Iraqi refugees living in Romaniamarker.


Significant groups of Iraqis have emigrated to Russia as early as the 1990s. Iranmarker credits Russiamarker 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. However, Iraqis admitted to Russia often find themselves the targets of racism; as with Afghanmarker refugees, they are mistaken for migrants from the Caucasus, who are stereotyped in Russia as drug dealers and criminals. The number of Iraqi refugees in Russia is unknown, but may exceed 50,000 in the year 2009. Iraqi Christians like Assyrians and Chaldeans migrated to Russia in the early 20th century.


The current population of Iraqis in Spainmarker are unknown; however, since the Iraq war, Spain has been host to 45 Iraqi refugees. An additional 42 Iraqis requested asylum in 2006. There are roughly about 13,700 asylum seekers in Spain, and a further 642 Iraqis hold residency permits.

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


The current population of Iraqis in Switzerlandmarker 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".

United Kingdom

The United Kingdommarker 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 Armeniamarker.


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 Abkhaziamarker, Armeniamarker, Azerbaijanmarker and South Ossetiamarker.


The current Iraqi population in Kuwaitmarker is difficult to determine, as there are no official figures, but estimates range from 10,000 to 13,000. According to the UNHCR, only 427 Iraqis have been registered as asylum seekers and 18 Iraqis have been recognized as refugees in Kuwait.

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.

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.


The current Iraqi population in Pakistanmarker 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 Iraqi's chose Pakistan as a conduit nation in their quest to enter Europe and America. It is believed that triple the current estimates of Iraqi's living in Pakistan have passed through the nation though exact figures are difficult to attain. There are also a sizeable number of people in Pakistan who have historical Iraqi origin, having migrated and settled in the country in the past few centuries. They are known as the Iraqi biradri.

United Arab Emirates

The current population of Iraqis in the United Arab Emiratesmarker is estimated to be around 100,000.


Since the war in 2003, despite not sharing a border with Iraq, Yemenmarker 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.


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 Israelmarker, is nearly 600,000.

See also


  1. Baghdad's last rabbi to leave Iraq - Haaretz - Israel News
  2. Martin Woollacott: One in six Iraqis are in exile | World news | The Guardian
  3. NGO's claim Iraqis have hit 2 million in Syria
  4. BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » You expected maybe the Donald Rumsfeld fan club?
  5. Iraqis far from home sign up to vote - International Herald Tribune
  6. Baghdad's last rabbi to leave Iraq - Haaretz - Israel News
  7. 150 displaced in Egypt, only 5,000 Iraqi refugees registered
  8. BuzzFlash > World Media Watch > 1/21/05
  10. BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Iraqi exiles to vote in 14 states
  12. Refugees International: Countries: Kuwait
  13. Germany accepts Iraqi refugees
  14. Press Releases: Iraq, Egypt: Respond to the needs of Iraqi refugees
  15. Warning over spiralling Iraq refugee crisis | World news |
  16. Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Cairo and Baghdad to link
  17. Displaced Iraqis around the world
  19. The Iraqi Exodus:Number of Iraqi refugees in Germany Surges
  20. Iraqi refugees in European nations
  21. Refugees find Germany "1000 times better than Iraq"
  23. Migration News - Migration Dialogue
  24. UNHCR | Iraq
  25. UNHCR | Iraq
  26. People's Daily Online - Switzerland decides against more refugees from Iraq
  27. Report on Displaced Iraqis

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