Iraq Protection Cluster - Guidance on Evacuations in the West Mosul Context

During the military operation to retake east Mosul, a smaller number of civilians than expected escaped the city. This was partially due to the Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) “stay at home” policy, which encouraged civilians to seek shelter inside their homes. The ISF is now advancing into the southern neighbourhoods of west Mosul. Civilians have two broad categories of choice to protect themselves from the hostilities: remain in their homes (or neighbourhoods) or flee across the frontlines. Families’ decisions are guided to some extent by the approach of and direction provided to them by the ISF, but also by the impact the hostilities is having on families, which includes the use of civilians’ homes for military purposes by ISIL. The latter has reportedly contributed to mounting civilian causalities since the offensive began. As the fighting moves closer to densely populated areas, including the Old City, there is a possibility that the Prime Minister could instruct the ISF to encourage people to leave their homes, which would represent a significant change from the east Mosul “stay at home” policy – then thought to be the most appropriate tactic to protect civilians. It is beyond the scope of this guidance note to make a clear determination on what the best method to protect civilians is in the west Mosul context. However, should civilians be encouraged to or decide on their own to leave their homes, they will face severe protection risks given how difficult it is for the ISF to secure genuinely safe routes.