Friday, August 03, 2007

Jordan Steps Up on Iraqi Refugees Issue -- Now Can the U.S.?

An Iraqi refugee carries his son at a refugee camp near the far eastern Jordanian town of Ruweished, March 29, 2003. [NPR - Corbis]At a conference in Amman on July 26, government officials from Jordan and Syria described the humanitarian crisis and massive economic burden posed by the 2 million refugees, displaced by violence in Iraq, who have sought safety in neighboring countries. Of particular interest were statements made by Jordan's Interior Ministry Secretary-General, Mukheimar Abu-Jamous.

According to the Associated Press, "the influx of 750,000 Iraqis is costing Jordan $1 billion a year in basic services, Abu-Jamous told the gathering in the Jordanian capital." This statement represents a critical admission on the part of the Jordanian government, which had previously downplayed the refugee problem due to questions of its national identity (
Palestinians now make up more than half of the Jordanian population).

Jordan also
announced it would give all Iraqi children in the country access to Jordanian schools. Currently, the government estimates that 19,000 Iraqi girls and boys are in school, while at least 50,000 do not attend.

"We are very grateful to Jordan for this humanitarian decision," said Judy Cheng-Hopkins, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Operations. "These host countries have borne an enormous burden caring for millions of Iraqis. The sheer number of uprooted Iraqis has outstripped the capacity of their infrastructure to cope, particularly in the area of education. So we are now asking for international support specifically aimed at assisting these generous host governments in getting Iraqi children back into school."

But while Jordan is beginning to acknowledge and provide assistance to Iraqi refugees, the U.S. record remains dismal.
Our government provided $700 million in emergency aid in 2003 to help the Government of Jordan offset revenue shortfalls and new expenditures resulting from the conflict in Iraq, but has since abandoned emergency aid payments despite the worsening refugee situation. Milad Atiya, the Syrian ambassador to Jordan and head of his country's delegation to the conference, said the international community "must be involved, especially the United States because its policy led to the plight the Iraqis are currently in and it bears responsibility."

However, there remains hope. This week, SEVEN new cosponsors signed on to The Responsibility to Iraqi Refugees Act (H.R. 2265), legislation which would would provide support for Iraq, NGOs and neighboring countries including Jordan and Syria to handle the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and protection situation for 4 million displaced Iraqis. It also provides special visas for the most at-risk refugees -- particularly those in danger for working closely with American soldiers and NGOs in Iraq.

To find out how YOU can help us tell the U.S. government to start living up to its responsibilities and assisting Iraqi refugees,
click here.

15 comments:

rwst346 said...

Warren, a suburb of Detroit, has now received 14 Iraqi refugees as a first opening. So far it is going very well. Screen them very well and find a home for them here!

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of people against bringing refugees in and further straining our economy. It's too bad but it happens to be true.

Emily Stivers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I can't believe you just said "controversial, unskilled Mexican and Central American immigrants!" Wow....there's the language thing again. Maybe it wasn't your intention but that sounded horrible! And then you have the nerve to say, "these won't be a strain on our economy." I just don't know what to say....this isn't a good image for a humanitarian organization! Wow....

Emily Stivers said...

I'm sorry. Perhaps my language was imprecise. Believe me, I personally think immigration restrictions should be relaxed considerably, and even the "unskilled" refugees should be resettled in this country.

But we must avoid confusing the Iraqi refugees with our domestic debate on immigration. The refugees the Blumenauer bill would bring in would not be a strain on our economy, and whether other types of immigrants would be is not relevant here (though I did not intend the implication that they would be).

Immigration is not an area of expertise for me so if I muddled the language, please realize it was a mistake and no offense was intended. I am sorry for any confusion.

Anonymous said...

I am upset that you needed to apologize for speaking the truth. That is the problem with all this PC crap run amuk. Nobody can speak or listen to the truth anymore!

Anonymous said...

I don't really see what is wrong with the phrasing in question and I think the anonymous writer is reading things between the lines that aren't there.
To state that Central American immigrants are controversial is a pretty obvious thing and represents no opinion on the problem.
To state that Central American immigrants are largely unskilled it supported by an overwhelming number of scientific studies. Once again this bares no bias.
The statement that "these will not be a drain on our economy" was a direct response to the previous comment about Iraqi refugees, and I am pretty sure it did not carry any implication that Central American refugees are a drain on our economy.
Also, this has nothing to do with political correctness, it is instead a matter of a reader superimposing their beliefs on an unbiased statement.

myopinion said...

It was just a description of the situation as such. Nevertheless, anyone coming in is a drain on the economy. Their children have to be schooled don't they? At some point they may be able to give back but certainly not right away. If too many come at once, it is a strain on the locality.

More to the point, the areas in question just don't want more "foreignors" coming in to take share in what is already in short supply.

Emily Stivers said...

Thanks for all those who clarified my point here. However, my initial language was imprecise, so I removed the comment.

The point I was trying to make is that the Iraqi doctors, translators and professionals the Blumenauer bill would bring to the U.S. would not be a drain on our economy. They would work and pay taxes for schools, and most would become citizens. If anything, they would strengthen our economy.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe such educated people would be coming in. Maybe they should be encouraged to stay where they are.

doglady8 said...

Sure, I'd want to stay in a place where my live was constantly being threatened. Anyone who has had anything to do with helping our government is threatened. We owe it to them, for many reasons, to get them to safety and help them start new lives.

Geoff Schaefer said...

The majority of Iraqis that are targeted in this bill are in fact highly skilled and qualified. In strict economic terms this is a good thing for our country. Highly skilled, educated, and specialized workers add value to the economy - the factor that expands our economy.

So while determining exactly what type of "strain" they might put on individual locales - a much more complicated economic issue than polarized arguments can tackle - they are actually an addition to our economy, not a subtraction.

And on top of that, at the end of the day we can do our job as Americans. We can help people.

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