Tips, questions, and suggestions
Sign up for emails
StateSide:Policy
read it here
Iraq Gov't "Unprepared" for Returnee Influx
State Dep't "Prematurely" Encouraging Displaced to Return, RI Says
06/05/2008 12:51 PM ET
Iraqi refugee child in Amman, Jordan, 2007.
Photo: Refugees International.
Iraqi refugee child in Amman, Jordan, 2007.

The Iraqi government lacks strategies to accommodate a major influx of its displaced citizens, should they decide to return to the country from exile in response to recent security gains, a refugee advocacy organization has said.

In a newly released statement, Refugees International writes that modest gains in stability in the country are not sufficient to allow the orderly and safe return of the millions of refugees living in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. Such an influx should only be encouraged until Iraq establishes "a long-term, concrete assistance plan for Iraqis returning home" and "after security conditions improve significantly for a sustained period of time," the refugee watchdog writes.

Without such conditions, refugees would be better accommodated in their host countries, says RI Senior Advocate Kristele Younes, who calls on the international community to support relief efforts for displaced Iraqis.

Moreover, “The State Department is pushing the Government of Iraq to entice people back prematurely, while failing to use its considerable leverage to advocate for increased financial support of the massive number of people who are living in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. Iraq has the financial means to provide its citizens, internally and abroad, with resources until returning to their homes in safety and dignity is viable,” Younes says.

Below is the full text:

Government of Iraq Unprepared for Large Influx of Returning Refugees Clear Strategy to Assist and Protect Returning Iraqis Still Needed

Washington, D.C. – Despite slightly increased security in parts of Iraq, the return of Iraqi refugees to their homes from Syria, Jordan and elsewhere should only proceed when proper conditions are in place, Refugees International said today. Refugees International calls on the Government of Iraq to establish a long-term, concrete assistance plan for Iraqis returning home after security conditions improve significantly for a sustained period of time. Until that time, support for an estimated 4.5 million people displaced by the violence in Iraq, including funding for current UNHCR and other appeals, is vital for their continued safety and well-being.

“We all continue to hope for the day when Iraq is stable enough to welcome some 4.5 million displaced Iraqis home, but what will they return to?” said Kristele Younes, Senior Advocate for Refugees International. “The current security situation in Iraq is too dangerous for such returns. The $195 million recently pledged by the Government of Iraq to accommodate eventual returns will be welcome once conditions permit, but more funding and a credible plan to assist Iraqis and protect them from further violence are required.”

Refugees International is concerned that if Iraqis return they will join the ranks of the millions displaced inside Iraq, as sectarian cleansing will prevent them from going back to their original homes. The primary reason Iraqis are even considering returning home is because of dwindling resources in their countries of exile, not confidence in their future safety and security. Visa restrictions often prevent Iraqis from working, and after months in exile, many Iraqi refugees are running out of the savings that have provided food and housing thus far. Support of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and the host nations of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would ensure that refugees will not face additional hardship.

“Secretary Rice and the Bush administration have expressed a desire to see Iraqis return as soon as Iraq has become a safer and more stable place. That time has not yet arrived,” Younes said. “The State Department is pushing the Government of Iraq to entice people back prematurely, while failing to use its considerable leverage to advocate for increased financial support of the massive number of people who are living in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. Iraq has the financial means to provide its citizens, internally and abroad, with resources until returning to their homes in safety and dignity is viable.”

In April 2008, Refugees International released “Uprooted and Unstable: Meeting Urgent Humanitarian Needs in Iraq” which highlighted that militias had become the largest provider of assistance inside Iraq. The report noted the lack of a clear strategy to handle returns and that property disputes were emerging as many houses of people who had previously fled are now occupied by others reluctant to give them up.

###

SloggerHeadlines






































































Wounded Warrior Project