FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vanessa Parra, 202-828-0110 x225
Addressing Humanitarian Needs of Iraqi Refugees Necessary for Stability in Middle East
Refugees International urges greater assistance to Iraqi refugees during Gen. Petraeus testimony
Washington, D.C.- As the U.S. Congress prepares to hear General Petraeus' testimony on security in Iraq, Refugees International urged top policy makers to develop immediate plans to address the humanitarian needs of Iraqi refugees in order to increase regional stability. The organization expressed concern that displacement measurements were not included in the fifteen criteria for determining the success of military operations inside Iraq, despite the fact that more than 4.7 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes. In particular, Refugees International called for increased bilateral assistance to countries hosting refugees and a more robust resettlement program so that vulnerable Iraqis can rebuild their lives here in the U.S.
“We welcome efforts by the U.S. and Iraqi governments and their armed forces to stabilize Iraq, but there simply cannot be a stable Iraq when millions of Iraqis are fleeing their homes and their country," said Kristele Younes, Advocate for Refugees International. "The Administration must begin to look at regional threats to stability, chief among them refugee flows, and develop immediate plans to provide for the humanitarian needs of Iraqi refugees. Large refugee flows always constitute a threat to stability, but with a history of sectarian tensions, resources that are being drained, and millions of Palestinian refugees already settled in the region, the Middle East is particularly vulnerable to increased tensions.”
Refugees International has been sounding the alarm for almost a year that Iraqi refugee flows throughout the Middle East are overwhelming the region. More than 2.2 million persons are now displaced inside the country, and an additional 2.5 million have fled to neighboring countries. These numbers continue to grow with as many as 100,000 per month newly displaced within Iraq and 40,000 to 60,000 fleeing to Syria on a monthly basis. With Jordan and Syria now imposing entry requirements on Iraqis, it is becoming increasingly hard to leave the country. Many “safer” governorates inside Iraq have also closed their internal borders, unable to cope with the large influxes of displaced persons.
"Refugees International is extremely concerned by the growing numbers of displaced Iraqis, as well as by the few options that are available to them," continued Ms. Younes. "Whether or not U.S. troops stay or leave Iraq, it is clear that we must respond to the millions of people who cannot access housing, food, medical care and education for their children. Regardless of our future course in Iraq, these people are not going home soon."
Refugees International also addressed Ambassador Crocker's concern for Iraqis who have helped the U.S. and expressed disappointment that only 719 refugees have been resettled in the U.S. this year.
“We welcome Ambassador’s Crocker concern for Iraqis who have put their lives at risk because they assisted the US with its mission in Iraq. A much more robust resettlement program for them and other vulnerable Iraqis is greatly needed,” said Advocate Sean Garcia. “However, resettlement only addresses a piece of the crisis. We must substantially increase financial support to the UN and aid agencies working to alleviate the suffering of Iraqi civilians, and increase bilateral assistance to regional governments and governorates within Iraq hosting millions of Iraqis. It is only with increased, long-term aid to the entire region that the US will be able to reach its goals in attaining stability for Iraq and the Middle East.”
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted three missions to Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt to assess the needs of Iraqi refugees and work with international leaders to develop effective solutions to this crisis. For more information, go to http://www.refugeesinternational.org/iraq