GENEVA — Thousands of Iraqis are fleeing the country every day in a ‘steady, silent exodus’ and a spike in sectarian violence has stopped others from returning to their homeland, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday. More than 50,000 exiled Iraqis returned from neighbouring countries last year in the hope that calm might return after the country’s first post-war elections in January 2005. That number has fallen to 1,000 this year. ‘Far more are leaving,’ Ron Redmond, chief spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing in Geneva. ‘Many of them are moving on to other countries in what could be termed a steady, silent exodus.’ Redmond said his staff were seeing 2,000 people a day enter Syria from Iraq. More are believed to be entering other countries but UNHCR has not recorded those movements. Up to 1.6 million Iraqis now live outside their country — mostly in Jordan and Syria, and in increasing numbers in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf states and Europe, Redmond said. Some of these left Iraq a decade ago but many have fled since 2003, when U.S. troops invaded the oil-exporting […]

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