Well-educated people most likely to flee post-Saddam Iraq

The people most likely to flee Iraq are the highly educated, often with families, according to new research from the School of Politics and International Relations (POLIR).

Researchers Duygu Ozaltin, Farah Shakir and Professor Neophytos Loizides used a survey funded by the British Academy and conducted from May to August 2015 to study what people in Baghdad said they intended to do about leaving Iraq since the fall of President Saddam Hussein in 2006.

The study investigated why, when faced with war, some people chose to leave and others stay. It sheds light on the impact of one of the darkest periods in Iraq’s history, finding that even optimism about the end of conflict is not enough to convince potential refugees to stay.

It has been known that violent conflict does cause people to leave, but few studies have asked those who want to stay why they do. The study found economic factors play little role in the decision-making process but education does.

The researchers found that those with secondary school diplomas or above are three times more likely to leave Iraq.

Ms Ozaltin, a PhD candidate in International Relations, said: ‘What is interesting is that contrary to far right media portrayal of refugees, the people who intend to leave Iraq are better educated. Our findings have particular relevance for challenging anti-immigrant platforms.’

The study concludes that better understanding of Iraq’s forced migration could help find sustainable strategies to address protracted displacement both in Iraq and elsewhere – as one of the main reasons for migration policy failure is the inability to identify and analyse factors that lead people to flee.

Why Do People Flee? Revisiting Forced Migration in Post-Saddam Baghdad by Duygu Ozaltin, Farah Shakir and Professor Neophytos Loizides has been published in the Journal of International Migration and Integration.