(BAGDAD) — Choosing the lesser of two evils, as many as 10,000 Iraqi expatriates have returned to their homeland from Syria in just the last week.
The Iraqis, who initially moved to escape war in their own country, were told by Baghdad that they put themselves at grave risk by remaining in Syria, which has been in the midst of a 17-month-long civil war that has expanded and grown more violent.
In a statement, the United Nation’s refugee agency UNHCR said Tuesday, “Many of the returnees have expressed their fear regarding the ongoing risks to their safety in Iraq, but said they had little choice, given the security threats in Syria.”
Iraq has provided planes to transport any of their countrymen who want to leave Syria while also getting assurances from Damascus that people would be able to use border crossings safely.
Meanwhile, at least 7,500 Syrians have also been welcomed to take refuge in Iraq. An estimated 150,000 Syrians have left war-torn sections of their country for other nations since the conflict began in March 2011.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Greg Botelho and Euan McKirdy, CNN
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Newswire