Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Iraq Refugee Situation: A Brief Update

A couple times over the last three weeks I've mentioned a UNHCR conference was set to be held in Geneva yesterday. I wanted to post a couple links relating to the conference for you to check out. Interesting to compare the UNHCR goal of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees this year with the US agreeing to accept 7,000 refugees. With 3.9 million displaced Iraqis, 2 million of whom are refugees, the UNCHR figure only represents one percent of refugees. Keeping in mind the daily-worsening humanitarian crisis that continues to cause the number of refugees to swell, the conference issued a call for Western states to take more responsibility for refugee resettlement.

Of particular concern among many is the lack of US visas being granted to Iraqi allies, such as the thousands of interpreters who have risked their lives to work with the US-led coalition in Iraq. Taking an important step toward rectifying this, the Senate last week passed a bill authorizing the issuing of 500 visas for such individuals and aimed at fixing the backlog that is currently stalling the visa process. Similar legislation is pending in the House. The introduction of these bills perhaps has something to do with the media ratchetting up the pressure on Congress to rectify America's abandonment of Iraqi interpreters. For a great example of this, check out this compelling editorial from today's NYT.

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