As part of a five-year retrospective on the Iraq War, the Washington Post hosted an internet chat with Kristele Younes of Refugees International to discuss the plight of displaced Iraqis. Ms. Younes recently returned from visits to Jordan and Syria where she assessed the situation of Iraqi refugees (read her report).
During the wide ranging and informative internet discussion, Ms. Younes tackled a variety of key topics related to the refugee crisis.
On the delay in processing Special Immigrant Visas (SIV):
The Kennedy legislation- increasing the visas to 5,000 — and its adoption by Congress are definitely positive steps. It is now up to the administration to implement the legislation and ensure it devotes the resources needed for it. Refugees International, as for other advocacy groups, will continue watching. Congress too is watching, and the administration is obliged by law to report to Congress on its progress with the implementation.
On the danger faced by those returning to Iraq:
According to the UNHCR, the conditions in Iraq are absolutely not conducive to return for the moment. This position is supported by the U.S. State Department. Refugees International strongly believes that return should not be encouraged until Iraqis can go home, on their own free will, in safety and dignity.
Obviously, we all hope that Iraqis will be able to return one day. But those who have returned in the last few months- forced to do so because they could no longer survive in exile- have mostly been unable to return to their homes. Seventy percent became internally displaced. Some were attacked or killed. In these conditions, return is not only dangerous for the displaced, it also adds to the potential for increased instability and violence.
And, on what America can do to help out:
It is essential the American public engages on this issue. As this is an electoral year, Americans need to ask all candidates to come up with a plan to deal with the humanitarian crisis. This is a bipartisan issue, and should concern us all. We need to increase assistance to the U.N. and to the region, increase resettlement numbers, increase U.S. engagement in the Middle East, and work on ensuring that whatever military course the U.S. takes in Iraq, it will consider the humanitarian consequences and ensure that civilians will be protected against further violence.
To learn more about what was discussed, read the full transcript.