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Congressional Testimony Warns Greater Attention to Displaced Iraqis Needed to Stabilize Iraq

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C. - As security in Iraq improves, refugees and internally displaced Iraqis are starting to return home, but the returns are slow and tentative, Refugees International told Congress today. The new security climate in Iraq has not yet translated into increases in the provision of services to displaced Iraqis and more must be done to assist and protect them. Last month, Refugees International completed a mission to Baghdad, Eskanderia, Fallujah, Karbala and Hilla to assess the humanitarian situation inside Iraq. According to the United Nations, about 20 percent of Iraq's population, or more than four million people, remain displaced.

"In its strategy to encourage returns, the Government of Iraq has failed to take political, social and economic reality into consideration and examine the country's capacity to absorb large numbers of returns," said RI President Ken Bacon.  "Instead, it has made the return of displaced Iraqis a component, as opposed to a consequence, of its security strategy." The testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adds that, "Assistance to returnees, property restitution, and the provision of basic services are essential for Iraqis to return home. But many will still not return until they feel the root causes of the conflict have been addressed. They need to feel accepted by the community and provided with security guarantees."

Refugees International also expressed concern that the Government of Iraq is no longer registering internally displaced people in an effort to make the displacement problem disappear.  Corruption within Iraq's government is widespread and makes it extremely difficult to effectively deliver assistance and for international and national aid agencies to operate. However, Refugees International met with impressive local groups, who provide assistance to thousands of vulnerable Iraqis without any support from the Iraqi government or the international community.

"There is no unified process to deal with returning internally displaced persons or refugees. Property disputes will linger for many years to come and are likely to spark renewed violence," added Mr. Bacon. "While security remains the major factor in a family's decision to return home, other factors play a role - infrastructure, particularly water and electricity, employment opportunities and health care. The Government of Iraq, the U.S. and the United Nations have to do a better job of working together to provide the services necessary to support returning Iraqis."

Refugees International is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted nine missions to the Middle East to assess the needs of displaced Iraqis and work with international leaders to develop effective solutions to this crisis. RI's latest field report on displacement inside Iraq will be available on April 9, 2009. For more information, go to www.refugeesinternational.org/Iraq.

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Contact:
Vanessa Parra; +1-202-540-7025
Vanessa@refugeesinternational.org