History of immigration from Iraq

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Map of Iraq
Map date: 2013
Iraqi-born Victorians were first identified in the Victorian census in 1976, when 189 people were recorded. Within five years the community had almost tripled to 408, and by 1991 had increased to 603. Many escaped hardships caused by the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, which ended in 1988.

The outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991 led a large number of people to flee Iraq into the neighbouring countries. Some refugees lived in processing camps for up to five years before being accepted into Australia under the Special Humanitarian Program. During this period the visas of around 400 Iraqis living in Australia were extended until the end of the Gulf War.

Iraqi immigration to Australia peaked between 1992 and 1995, with the Iraq-born population in Victoria increasing to 3,492 by 1996. By 2011 this community had grown to 12,795 people. Most recent Iraqi immigrants have arrived under the Family and Skilled Migration categories. Some Iraqis have sought refugee status after arrival in Australia, and have been detained pending processing.

Today the Iraq-born community in Victoria is culturally diverse, with settlers from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds including Arabs, Kurds, Tourkomans, Chaldeans and Assyrians. Although Islam is the dominant religion in Iraq, only 28% of the Iraq-born immigrants living in Victoria are Muslim; 60% are Christian.

Nearly half of the Iraqi community speaks Arabic at home; only 3% speaks English, reflecting the number of recent immigrants in the community. Over half of Iraq-born Victorians are aged under 35, and only 19% are aged over fifty. Of those in the workforce, a third are employed as labourers and related workers within the manufacturing industry, whilst another third are employed in professional positions. The community is supported by organisations such as the Australian Iraqi Forum several religious or cultural associations.

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