U.S. Goals for Iraqi Refugees are Inadequate
New Resettlement Numbers Fall Far Short of Needs
Washington, D.C. - Refugees International expressed disappointment today at the State Department's goal of resettling only 17,000 Iraqi refugees for the 2009 fiscal year, which begins October 1. While the United States achieved its target of resettling over 12,000 Iraqi refugees in 2008, the needs are far greater. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that in 2009, 90,000 Iraqi refugees in the region will be in urgent need of resettlement. This number does not include vulnerable Iraqis who remain inside their country, or Palestinian refugees from Iraq, who live in desperate conditions at the Syria-Iraqi border.
"The U.S. certainly met its goal for this year, but next year's target of resettling 17,000 Iraqi refugees falls far short of what is needed," said Senior Advocate Kristele Younes. "Ultimately there can be no stability in Iraq and the wider region without resolving the situation for the nearly five million Iraqis forced from their homes. The next administration must increase the number of Iraqi refugees it resettles, as well as increase assistance to countries that will continue to host Iraqi refugees."
More than 2.7 million people are now displaced inside Iraq, and over 2 million have fled to neighboring countries since the war begin in 2003. These refugees were forced to flee targeted persecution based on religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation, especially individuals who chose to cooperate with the United States. Refugees International is concerned that without the legal right to work in their countries of asylum, many refugees are struggling to survive on limited savings and their status in neighboring countries remains extremely precarious.
"The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security must work together to remove the bureaucratic bottlenecks and resettle far larger numbers of Iraqis who are most vulnerable, including many who are still in Iraq," added Younes. "We also must ensure that host countries like Jordan and Syria have the means to provide assistance to the millions of refugees in their countries. Regardless of the America's future course in Iraq, providing for the well-being of Iraqi refugees is essential for establishing stability in the Middle East."
Refugees International is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted five missions to the Middle East to assess the needs of Iraqi refugees and work with international leaders to develop effective solutions to this crisis. A new mission to assess the situation for Iraqi refugees in Lebanon and Syria will take place between September 21 and October 9. For more information, go to http://www.refugeesinternational.org/iraq.