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Biden Lauds Progress in Iraq As Majority of UN and U.S. Officials Remain Walled Behind "Green Zone"

Statement from Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International

Washington, DC - "As Vice President Biden lauds progress in Iraq, Refugees International is pleased that the Vice President expressed a U.S. commitment today to continue working with the Iraqi government to aid Iraqis who have been uprooted from their homes as well as those who are attempting to return home and rebuild their lives. Despite some political progress and improvements in security in Iraq, at least 500,000 civilians displaced by the war continue to live as squatters in slum areas without access to aid or solutions.  Ultimately, the United Nations and U.S. government humanitarian actors have had little impact on improving the lives of the Iraqi people. Like most diplomats and international staff, these humanitarian actors reside and work in the 'green zone' and have little access to the communities they are supposed to serve.

"However, the Vice President failed to sufficiently highlight the ongoing suffering of the victims of Iraq's war for which the U.S. has a special humanitarian responsibility.  Mr. Biden also failed to note that ongoing U.S. and UN humanitarian efforts are thwarted by the inability to access the most vulnerable populations.  Although the war in Iraq has become less brutal and fewer civilians are being killed now, most international humanitarian and civilian actors still cannot travel freely, unarmed, throughout the country. This means that much needed humanitarian aid cannot effectively reach those in need. 

"As the U.S. military continues to withdraw in 2011, access to the people of Iraq will only get worse, since civilian agencies will have little to no security.  The U.S. administration continues to highlight the progress in Iraq while overshadowing the fact that it is one of the only countries in the world where U.S. diplomats and UN actors continue to be confined to a highly secure and walled off compound and are unable to leave without a massive security escort.

"The reality of Iraq today is not one of political agreements and smooth transitions but rather one where the displacement problems persist and where insecurity dominates. Life for the average Iraqi is increasingly more difficult.  Iraqis today do not have access to a regular supply of electricity, face chronic water shortages, suffer from high unemployment, and continue to fall victim to bombings and militant attacks.  As the U.S. military draws down, this is the story that cannot be forgotten. We encourage the U.S. to maintain its commitment to the Iraqi people by providing necessary resources and taking concrete steps to reach the very people most in need."

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Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. For more information, go to www.refugeesinternational.org.

For Immediate Release: December 15, 2010
Contact: Refugees International, Megan Fowler
P: 202-828-0110 x214
megan@refugeesinternational.org