Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Crisis Without Borders

Children are amongst the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees.Can you even imagine losing loved ones and being driven from your home and possessions by sectarian violence, crossing over dangerous roads into an unfamiliar country, not being able to find housing or employment there and, wondering where your next meal is coming from, having no choice but to turn - or ask a family member to turn - to prostitution?

That's the story told in a new Brookings Institution - University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement paper, Iraqi Refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic: A Field-Based Snapshot. This thorough, disturbing study describes how "violence and lawlessness in Iraq drives tens of thousands of families from their home every month" to Syria alone, as well as the precarious state of Syria's infrastructure and ability to support these vulnerable refugees.

In our lead-up to the UN World Refugee Day on June 20th, EPIC is going to shine its spotlight more than ever on the Iraqi refugee crisis - the worst humanitarian disaster in the Middle East in 60 years.

According to an editorial from Monday's Washington Post, two to four million Iraqis have fled their homeland in the last four years, with an additional 20,000 to 30,000 leaving each month. Although Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within Iraq pose are difficult to count, most refugees head for Jordan or Syria, where public services are strained and nationalist tensions are increasing. And many of these refugees are female-headed-households in which women are being forced to take desperate measures in order to provide for their families.

So far, the U.S. has not lived up to its responsibility to these people, admitting only 701 refugees since the start of the war and only TWO in as many months. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced important legislation to do more, and we'll be telling you more about that and asking you to take action to support it in coming days. So keep checking back for updates.

Yesterday, Erik and I met with allies from Refugee Council USA, the Brookings Institution, Interaction, Refugees International, the Church World Service and others to prepare for upcoming Congressional appropriations debates. Since the recently-passed supplemental spending bill failed to earmark sufficient funding for Iraqi refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and set aid levels for several crucial programs well below what we deemed essential, we had a lot to discuss in terms of strategies for our new requests. Between us, we have lots of great ideas.

In light of this horrible crisis, If we can restore hope for even a few Iraqi families, I know our work will be well worthwhile.


Geoff Schaefer said...

It just boggles my mind that all the Iraqi's who help us accomplish our mission in Iraq that are being given death threats, killed, or even tortured, are not granted permission to come to the United States. Countless stories, including a few very good ones in The New Republic, highlight the fact that they beg and plead soldiers and our embassy but the only thing we can tell them is "thank you, we can't help you out right now." At the very least, we should be helping out the people that helped us out.

RevPhat said...

I discovered your website when researching the Iraqi refugee prostitution crises. I mention this in my sermon this past Sunday, and I'll be posting it this afternoon on my blog, unrulymob.blogspot.com. Hopefully I'll be able to direct a few readers here. Thanks for your good work on this crises.

reader said...

The first paragraph made me think you were writing about Michigan. --Sorry, but things are bad all over. I'll try to focus now..

Emily Stivers said...

Geoff - I wholly agree. The Blumenauer legislation would specifically target Iraqis who have assisted the U.S., UN, our contractors or U.S.-based NGOs. I think we're responsible for helping ALL the refugees and IDPs, but especially the ones who are at risk because they helped us.

Revphat - welcome to our blog! I will check out your site as well. For me, the refugee prostitution problem is the most disturbing aspect of the crisis at large, and I'll be following up with more entries about it soon.

Roscoe said...

I can't think of a single war where these things didn't happen. War is indeed, Hell!

Madam G said...

Great posting! You have a gift for writing!

Anonymous said...

Just because these are things that happen in wartime does not change our obligation to try to alleviate suffering that is happening right now.

Anonymous said...

We can alleviate the suffering by winning the war and getting out of Iraq ASAP!

Emily Stivers said...

On that last anonymous comment - unfortunately, "winning the war" is going to have to involve non-military solutions. Regardless of when U.S. troops are withdrawn, it's going to take a lot of targeted aid, smart programs and collaboration with Iraqis to rebuild not only the country, but also the shattered lives of these refugees and Internally Displaced Persons.

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