Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Taking Action on World Refugee Day

In nearly every way, the U.S. has fallen short in helping Iraqis displaced by violence.

We failed to provide sufficient resources for refugee host countries overwhelmed by the crisis. We failed to resettle significant numbers of refugees in our own country, admitting only two in as many months. And we even failed to provide for many who have risked their lives to help our forces and organizations in Iraq.

Earlier this year, the U.S.
announced an agreement with UNHCR to resettle 7,000 Iraqi refugees. UNHCR made plans to identify and recommend these refugees to the U.S. by July, while the U.S. pledged $18 million toward the resettlement of these individuals. Six months have passed. What’s the status of this agreement? UNHCR, under-funded and stretched for staff, has managed to identify its 7,000 refugees ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, the U.S. has not yet funded the $18 million it promised.

As a result, nearly 4 million Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) face an uncertain future.
Act now to support crucial legislation that restores their hope and ends the U.S. pattern of failure.

In addition to the UN-U.S. agreement, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering the "Responsibility to Iraqi Refugees Act of 2007" (H.R. 2265). Introduced by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Christopher Shays (R-CT), this bill would allow more Iraqis safe and legal passage into the U.S. and establish a Special Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons to respond to the crisis. It would also establish special provisions to help protect Iraq's most vulnerable refugees, including women-headed families and those who are in extreme danger of persecution for being affiliated with the U.S. in Iraq.

Yesterday, Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) introduced the "Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act." Although the bill does not go as far as H.R.2265, it is the most comprehensive legislation in the Senate for meeting the rapidly growing needs of Iraqis displaced by violence.

If you believe in what we are doing and want to create positive change yourselves, please
Write to your Members of Congress urging them to support these bills. EPIC will hand-deliver your letters in honor of World Refugee Day. Together, we can help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Iraqis and turn U.S. failures into successes.


Anonymous said...

The worst are those Iraqis who tried to help our forces and are now targeted in their own country! How can we ever expect co-operation when we don't protect our own?

Erik K. Gustafson said...

As our readers take action on World Refugee Day, I'd like to encourage our most active readers to take an additional step that is especially timely. Right now, the U.S. House of Representatives is deliberating on FY 2008 appropriations for Foreign Operations. Call your elected U.S. Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121 and urge them to support the Blumenauer-McDermott-Crowley amendment to increase funding for refugee assistance by $50 million. Remind your Representative that the timing of the amendment is especially good because today is World Refugee Day. Let them know that more than 4.2 million displaced Iraqis urgently need our help.

So if you are looking more more things to do after you send a letter to Congress on World Refugee Day, please call your Representative today via the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121. Thanks!

Iraqi friend writing from Jordan said...

Congrats on the great work on Iraqi refugees. I can't tell you how important your work is to eliviate the suffering of our people.

Anonymous said...

It highly dissapointing how poorly relief and reconstruction efforts were planned. US unwillingness to follow through on funding even the smallest actions to help is horrible. Thank you EPIC for highlighting this issue.

Anonymous said...

To what extent do you think the calls actually make a differnce to a congressmen? Would they just be annoyed by the inconvenience?

Emily Stivers said...

Thanks for all the supportive comments. I'm personally outraged that the Iraqis who have risked their lives to help U.S. forces and NGOs are now getting a cold shoulder when they are so desperately in need of protection. Moreover, I think that if our nation started living up to its promises and international responsibilities, it would go a long way towards earning back the respect of the world community.

Emily Stivers said...

How effective are the calls? It's true, a lot of Congressional staffers get annoyed by phone calls from constituents. However, it's their job to listen to what you have to say, and you have every right to voice your feelings.

The best way to make your calls, and letters, most effective is to personalize them to your Member. On the phone, start by asking where the Member stands on the issue. If he or she already supports the legislation in question, a simple "thanks and keep up the good work" may be enough. It is important for those Members to hear that their constituents are on their side, and your call may motivate them to do more. But if they already agree with you, you don't need to spend a lot of time on it.

If you've got one of those pesky Members who is dragging his or her feet on supporting refugees, however, you definitely need to write the letter and/or make the call. Maybe the staffer will be annoyed, but remember it's their job to listen. Just keep it to the point - explain why the issue is important, and that your vote may depend on it in the next election.


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