Recently, the Baltimore Sun ran an article on the refugee crisis. I was happy to see a local newspaper tackling the issue; I take it (with a heavy dose of optimism) as an indication that more and more people are paying attention to the crisis.
The article focused on one of the six Iraqis resettled in Maryland in fiscal year 2007, a woman named Ban Saadi Abdallattif, who came to the States with her nine-year-old son Sajad Mokhalad Bashar. Ms. Abdallattif was a teacher when she lived in Diyala. But the February, 2006 Samarra bombing of Al-Shi'a Al-Askari mosque marked a dramatic spike in violence that took the lives of her uncle and cousin, and which nearly led to her brother's kidnapping. Theirs is a mixed Shi'a and Sunni family, making them targets for both sides of the conflict. She fled to Syria with her entire family just over a year ago and arrived in Laurel, Maryland, this September.
Ban Saadi Abdallattif is awaiting a Social Security number so that she can begin work. Her son is in school in Laurel. She is relieved to be in the safety of the U.S. and does not plan to return to Iraq.
Sadly, Ban Saadi Abdallattif and her son represent only a fraction of the displacement crisis, and a remarkably lucky fraction at that. This fact is starkly indicated by the following stats, which clearly demonstrate the concerted effort that is required to address the crisis:
Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq: 2.3 million (UN High Commissioner for Refugees)
Refugees outside of Iraq: 2.4 million (UNHCR)
Total number displaced: 4.7 million (UNHCR)
UNHCR referrals to the United States as of Oct 5: 11,911 (Baltimore Sun)
Total number of Iraqi refugees admitted in the 2007 fiscal year: 1,608 (Human Rights First)
Of these, number referred by the UNHCR in FY07: 1,510 (HRF)
Number referred by a U.S. embassy program for Iraqi employees in FY07: 98 (HRF)
Special immigrant visas issued to translators and their family members in FY07: 820 (HRF)
Iraqi governorates with restrictions on internal movement: at least 11 of 18 (UNHCR)
UNHCR Syria: 1.4 million Iraqi refugees; 128,000 registered, nearly 36 percent with specific needs (UNHCR)
UNHCR Jordan: 1 million Iraqi refugees; 48,833 registered, 14.4 percent with specific needs (UNHCR)