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Washington, DC -- The House of Representatives’ proposal to cut foreign aid would devastate U.S. advancements for Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people, according to a report released today by Refugees International (RI). The draft budget calls for a 40 percent reduction to the Migration and Refugee Assistance account. This reduction in funding would seriously undermine U.S. foreign policy goals in Iraq. RI is calling for Congress to maintain funding at current levels.
"Finally, Iraqis are returning home to villages destroyed by the war," said Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International. "But this proposed funding cut could jeopardize the efforts already made by the U.S. government to unify Iraq.”
Tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis are living as squatters in slums inside the country, according to the report, “Iraq’s Displaced: A Stable Region Requires Stable Assistance.” They live scattered amidst garbage dumps and pools of stagnant and polluted water. But now, thanks to U.S. government funding, some of these Iraqis are finally receiving basic assistance. They are able to stay dry from the winter rains, watch their children play in safe spaces, and drink clean water. U.S. funding has also helped thousands of Iraqis return to villages in Diyala, an area where there was extreme violence and destruction. Attempts to achieve similar success in southern Baghdad are underway but are clearly dependent upon ongoing U.S. support.
“Over the next two years, U.S. humanitarian efforts to resolve the displacement crisis will help determine America's legacy in the region," said Elizabeth Campbell, Senior Advocate for Refugees International. She has just returned from Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad, Diyala, and Wassit Provinces in Iraq, where she met with displaced Iraqis. "The situation in Iraq is still extremely fragile and it would be a grave mistake for the U.S. government to cut the funding that protects and assists vulnerable and displaced Iraqis who only want to rebuild their lives and their country."
As the U.S. Congress debates the budgets for 2011 and 2012, Refugees International is calling for the Migration and Refugee Assistance account to be maintained at 2010 levels. If humanitarian funding is cut, the report argues that the U.S. will be unable to effectively help Iraqis who want to return home, or find solutions for those living as squatters in slum areas inside Iraq. The displaced would be plunged into greater destitution without access to basic rights.
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: January 16, 2011
Contact: Dara McLeod, +1-202-828-0110 x225