Iraqis in Egypt offered money, flights back home

AFP , Friday 11 Feb 2011

The Iraqi government has offered to help its citizens residing in Egypt to return to Iraq as tension continues to mount in Cairo and other cities

The Iraqi government is offering money and free flights to their citizens in Egypt who want to escape the raging protests against President Hosni Mubarak, a spokesman said on Friday.

More than 1,700 Iraqis have so far taken up the offer to return home, with Iraq making use of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's personal plane and one provided by transport ministry, while families who opt to stay in Egypt are also to receive financial support.

"The families which returned back to Iraq got 300,000 dinars ($255) from the ministry of migration," said Hassanayn Ahmed, spokesman for Iraq's ministry of migration and the displaced.

"More than 1,700 Iraqis have so far returned from Egypt to Iraq."

Ahmed said that families had arrived in Iraq over several days and moved back to their home provinces, with the majority hailing from Baghdad. The families were free to return to Egypt at a later date.

The migration ministry has also sent officials to Egypt to provide $200 in financial support to Iraqi families who have elected not to leave the country, Ahmed said.

Iraq announced on January 30 that it would start to evacuate its citizens from Egypt, five days after protests initially erupted in the country against Mubarak.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 Iraqi refugees fled to Egypt from violence in their own homeland after the 2003 US-led invasion, according to a study by the American University in Cairo.

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