Thursday, February 28, 2008

Iraqi Refugees Find Legal Footing in Lebanon

Press Release from Refugees International

Refugees International praised the decision by the Lebanese government to legally recognize thousands of Iraqis seeking refuge there and release hundreds of Iraqis in detention. Last week, the Lebanese government announced the new program, which will allow Iraqis a three-month grace period to find an employer to sponsor them and legalize their status in the country through a work permit. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that the decision should help about two-thirds of the adult Iraqi refugee population.

Last year, Refugees International highlighted the systematic arrest and detainment of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon for their illegal status in the country. The organization has repeatedly urged the government of Lebanon to offer asylum to the 50,000 Iraqis who have fled since the onset of the war. One Iraqi told Refugees International, “I would sooner go to Darfur before going back to Iraq.”

“Refugees International commends this decision of the Lebanese government to protect and assist Iraqi refugees seeking sanctuary from the violence in their country. Iraqis who already work illegally or can find employers to vouch for them have achieved a great victory,” said Kristele Younes, Senior Advocate with Refugees International. “However, it is vital for the Lebanese government to support those who are unable to obtain work permits after the three month grace period ends. The government must not forget to help those Iraqis who will be left out of this process.”

A Refugees International policy brief released in November 2007 drew attention to hundreds of Iraqi refugees detained in Lebanon. “The majority of Iraqis living in Lebanon do not have valid residency papers and many had to pay smugglers to enter Lebanon illegally,” Ms. Younes wrote in the brief. “Refugees International visited the Roumieh prison in Beirut, where over 400 Iraqis are currently detained. Of those interviewed, all had been arrested for illegal entry or an expired visa. None of them wanted to return to Iraq.”

Press Release from Refugees International


Anonymous said...

Why don't they want to return to their homeland, Iraq? They are the ones that can bring peace and stability instead of leaving Iraq to the radicals.

Emily said...

Most of those who left did so because they were threatened in Iraq. Some were targeted by insurgents due to their professions -- doctors, teachers, even hairdressers, any job that could be deemed "too secular," not to mention those who worked for the U.S. forces in some capacity. Often people in such occupations had their families and extended families threatened as well. Can you imagine receiving a serious, credible death threat just because your second cousin has a job somebody doesn't like? Sadly, that is the reality in Iraq.

Still others had to flee neighborhoods that just weren't safe. Many, including children, witnessed unspeakable crimes and were traumatized.

Very few who have left Iraq didn't absolutely have to. And very many would like to go back and rebuild their country -- when it is safe and stable enough for them to do so.

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