Monday, February 05, 2007

Addressing Iraqi Refugee Crisis

With the Bush administration's next step in Iraq looming, more people are beginning to question the US' refusal to accept responsibility for the millions of Iraqi civilians who are suffering from our previous missteps. In accordance with certain international legal norms, the United States has an obligation to address this urgent question. The reality of displaced persons, both within Iraqi borders and outside the country, is a real and pressing problem that is not being addressed by the Bush Administration and only beginning to receive attention from Congress.

For peace and reconstruction to be a success, Iraqis need to feel that they are safe in their homes and that their interests there are protected. According to Sabrina Tavernise in a January 28, 2007 article in the New York Times, the moderates are almost all gone and the middle class that were expected to be involved in building democracy have "given up and moved away." She explains that a year ago the hope of Iraqi brotherhood was a reality, but that now sectarianism and violence have overshadowed the optimism for unity and peace.

A recent editorial in the New York Times states, "the current price tag for the war is $8 billion a month, yet the State Department plans to spend only $20 million in the coming fiscal year to help shelter Iraqi refugees and to resettle them here." Since the start of the war, the United States has admitted only 466 Iraqi refugees and for the near future plans to admit only 50 Iraqi and Afghan refugees per year. The US certainly has greater capabilities to provide asylum to fleeing Iraqi civilians.

The editorial suggests that the administration allow around 70,000 Iraqi and Afghan refugees a year; start organizing dialogue with Iraq's neighbors on how to handle the escalation of Iraqi nationals living and migrating to their countries; and comply with the request from the UNHCR for $60 million for the protection and shelter of displaced Iraqis. The human suffering that has been taking place in Iraq cannot be lost in the debate over the troop surge or beginning a withdrawal. Whatever decision the Bush administration makes in the coming months, the problem of displaced Iraqis and the protection that they are entitled to will persist, and must be addressed.

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