Tips, questions, and suggestions
Sign up for emails
StateSide:Policy
Archive: June 2008
Refugees
RI Pres: First Lady's Acknowledgement of Iraq's Displaced is a White House First
06/23/2008 9:16 PM ET
Mrs. Laura Bush speaks during a celebration of World Refugee Day Friday, June 20, 2008, at the White House.
White House photo.
Mrs. Laura Bush speaks during a celebration of World Refugee Day Friday, June 20, 2008, at the White House.

A recent blog post by the president of Refugees International (RI) claims that a commemoration of World Refugee Day hosted by First Lady Laura Bush on Friday marked the first time the White House has directly mentioned the Iraqi refugee problem.

According to RI's Ken Bacon, Mrs. Bush introduced three refugees at the White House ceremony, one of whom was identified as Zeyad Abdel Okhowa, an Iraqi who fled the country after his work with the US embassy in Hilla put him in danger.

"Thanks to Laura Bush, we now know that the White House is aware of the Iraqi refugee crisis," Bacon says.

"So far President Bush has said nothing in public to acknowledge the displacement, which has humanitarian and security implications for the entire Middle East," the refugees advocate explains.

After his write-up of the event, which he says he attended, Bacon closes with a jab at the president: "Maybe Mrs. Bush will fill him in."

Click here for the full text of Bacon's post, and here for the White House transcript of Mrs. Bush's remarks.

read it here
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.

###

read it here
Dem. Frontrunner Calls for "Immediate Redeployment," "Diplomatic Surge"
06/03/2008 5:30 PM ET

With reports circulating in the media that Barack Obama may be near to clinching the Democratic Party nomination in the 2008 presidential race, closer attention will inevitably fall on the Illinois senator's stated positions on the war in Iraq.

A six-page document, produced by the Obama campaign sketches the senator's Iraq stances, beginning with a series of quotations from the candidate indicting the current administration's Iraq strategies as "unsustainable."

The campaign paper, entitled "Barack Obama: Turning the Page in Iraq," then turns to what the senator says will be his strategies in Iraq should he become president in 2009, including "a substantial, immediate redeployment" of American forces, diplomatic efforts to bring political reconciliation in Iraq and the Gulf region, and attention to Iraq's "humanitarian crisis," which ends with a call to "fulfill America's obligation to accept (Iraqi) refugees."

The paper also attempts to demonstrate Obama's opposition to the war from before the 2003 US-led invasion with a series of quotes attributed to the senator dating back to 2002.

Read the full six-page "fact sheet" on Obama's Iraq positions here: IraqFactSheet.pdf

SloggerHeadlines






































































Wounded Warrior Project