Below is full text of a statement issued today by the advocacy organization Refugees International, whose staff recently returned from assessing the conditions of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Lebanon. Read a full report below.
Few Iraqi Refugees Willing to Return Home
Refugees International reports that support to Iraqis in neighboring countries must be continued
Washington, D.C. - In a field report released today, Refugees International highlights that millions of Iraqi refugees are unlikely and unwilling to return to Iraq in the foreseeable future. The report noted that members of religious minorities, former members of the Baath party and those who fought in Saddam Hussein's army are unlikely to safely return to Iraq, while the latter groups will not be welcome by potential resettlement countries. Refugees International urges the next U.S. administration to lead international efforts to meet the long-term needs of two million Iraqi refugees through 2010. These efforts include bilateral aid to host countries, increased political engagement, funding for UN appeals and greater resettlement of Iraqi refugees.
"Although most Iraqi refugees have depleted their savings and face increasing prices and exploitative, unstable work, very few believe it is safe enough to return home," said Senior Advocate Kristele Younes who returned from the region in early October. "Until the day comes when Iraqis can return home safely, there are steps that can be taken to meet their needs. In particular, the U.S. should pressure the Government of Iraq to increase support for its own citizens in neighboring countries, since it has the financial means."
More than two million Iraqi refugees live in neighboring countries, where they are finding it harder to survive, particularly with half of Syria's food production lost to drought. Several Iraqi men who had been arrested in Lebanon for illegal entry and overstaying their visas explained that they had served their sentence, but would rather stay in prison than be forced to return to Iraq. Most of the Iraqi refugees in host countries are counting on resettlement to third countries, but this option will be available to very few people. Refugees International calls for humanitarian organizations and host governments to plan for the future of groups whose options are becoming increasingly limited, especially as the situation in their host countries deteriorates.
"The Government of Iraq should not be facilitating transportation back to Iraq when it hasn't established the security and essential services Iraqis need to return and rebuild their lives," added Younes. "Instead, Iraq, the U.S. and the international community must help neighboring countries shoulder the burden of hosting millions of Iraqi refugees."
Refugees International is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted six missions to the Middle East to assess the needs of Iraqi refugees and work with international leaders to develop effective solutions to this crisis. For more information, go to http://www.refugeesinternational.org/iraq.
Read the full report here: file_IraqiRefugees_Oct08.pdf