Failed Responsibility : The International Crisis Group details Iraqi Refugee Struggle

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The International Crisis Group, a stellar organization which provides analysis and recommendations on current issues in foreign affairs, has recently issued a report detailing Iraqi Refugees (download the 46 page report here) and the way in which they have been neglected by governments both foreign and domestic, most notably the United States.

The report begins by stating the current statistics of refugees. It states that “Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis became displaced since 2005, with a significant spike after the Samarra
shrine bombing in February 2006. Up to five million Iraqis – nearly one in five(my italics) – are believed to have deserted their homes in a bid to find safety and security. About half took refuge as internally displaced persons (IDPs), either in the Kurdistan region, which has remained
peaceful, or in any other place within the country that was relatively sheltered from violence.
The other half – those who could afford both the journey and upfront costs – fled as refugees to neighboring countries, especially Jordan and Syria.

The report details their struggles: lack of funds, a turn to crime for the most desperate, and more importantly a lack of aid from their fellow Arab countries( who in some cases simply cannot provide it) as well as the rest of the international community, most notably the United States.

Referring to the U.S. it states that “Although it has contributed more than most, the U.S., whose policies unleashed the chaos that spawned the outflow, has clearly failed in its own
responsibilities: downplaying the issue, providing far less assistance to host countries than needed and admitting to its own shores merely a trickle of refugees and only after unprecedented security checks to which asylum seekers from other nations are not subjected.”

The report assesses that although there have been improvements in the past months it is unlikely that many refugees will return, therefore not diminishing the crisis. The fact is most don’t have much to return to.

The end of the executive summary leaves us with a sobering view: “This is a humanitarian tragedy, but it is more than that. Rich in oil, Iraq today is bankrupt in terms of human resources. It will take decades to recover and rebuild. Because most refugees come from what used to be the (largely secular) middle class, their flight has further impoverished Iraq and potentially deprived it of its professional stratum for a decade or more.”

They insist that “The period of exile should be used to teach refugees new skills to facilitate their eventual social reintegration and contribution. There is every reason to assist host countries in that endeavour.” There are other insightful recommendations For Iraq and the governments of Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon which encourage a deep commitment to the assistance of these refugees.

To the U.S. Government it proposes:
“8. Assume its responsibilities toward Iraqi citizens
turned refugees as a result of the conflict by:
(a) disconnecting the refugee issue from other
political considerations and making financial
support to refugees in Syria consistent with the
level of support extended to those in Jordan;
(b) exerting pressure on and providing assistance
to the Iraqi government to assume its responsibilities
as described above;
(c) stepping up the resettlement of Iraqis interviewed
successfully by the Department of
Homeland Security, starting with those found
especially vulnerable under UNHCR criteria
and those who worked for the U.S. military
or companies, such as translators; (again my italics)
(d) removing security checks and requirements
for Iraqi asylum seekers that exceed existing
standard procedures and making available
more and better functioning U.S. contact offices
to process asylum claims throughout
Iraq, where possible; and
(e) initiating cooperation programs with host countries
regarding civil service training, scholarships
and exchange agreements with foreign
universities.”

This is a valuable framework with which to work with and begin to pressure Congress, the Depts. of State and Homeland Security, as well as the white house. Political rifts should not cause people to suffer, and it is clear that the U.S. has a moral obligation to these Iraqis. The faster we start working to expedite the process, the better.

Please read the report in it entirety, as it provides many insights and is a great analysis of the current situation.


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