Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Iraqi Refugee Resettlement Continues to Lag Behind Targets

Press Release from Refugees International

Washington, D.C. –- The number of Iraqi refugees resettled in the United States remained low last month with only 375 Iraqis resettled in January 2008. In response to the latest numbers released today, Refugees International expressed disappointment at the U.S. administration’s continual failure to meet its resettlement targets. In September of 2007, the State Department announced its goal of resettling 12,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of the fiscal year. Thus far, the U.S. has only resettled 1,432 Iraqi refugees in FY 2008. In 2007, the U.S. government only resettled 1,608 Iraqi refugees, despite the fact that the UN Refugee Agency referred 15,477 Iraqis to the U.S.

"It’s hard to imagine a stable Iraq when millions of Iraqis are languishing in neighboring countries. Syria, Jordan and others are unable to provide this huge influx of people with proper housing, food, medical care and education for their children," said Advocate Kristele Younes. "A year ago, the United States made a pledge to address the Iraqi refugee crisis and we have failed to keep that promise. In the President’s last year in office, a real effort should be made to resettle the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees and provide assistance for those still in the region."

On January 23rd, Representatives Hastings and Dingell sent a letter to President Bush urging increased funding for Iraqi refugees, asking for next year’s budget to include $1.5 billion for humanitarian assistance for 2.4 million Iraqis displaced within the country and some 2.5 million refugees being hosted in neighboring countries. The 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which was recently signed into law by the President, also established a special P-2 category and a special immigrant visa for Iraqis who have been targeted because of their affiliation with the U.S. government. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), Gordon Smith (R-Ore), Sam Brownback (R-Kan), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn) and a number of liberal and conservative Senators supported this bipartisan effort.

"Members of Congress have worked together to ease this crisis and support Iraqis forced from their homes by the violence in their country," added Younes. "Now, the administration must follow through and implement these measures. No matter what future course is taken for the war in Iraq, providing for the well-being of the Iraqi people inside and outside of the country is essential for establishing stability in the Middle East."

However, the 2009 budget request released by President Bush’s administration today reduced funding for refugee assistance by $59 million. "It is disturbing that President Bush is proposing a budget that reduces assistance for refugees," said Advocate Jacob Kurtzer. "The number of refugees is increasing, causing humanitarian emergencies and threatening regional stability, yet the Administration isn’t requesting the necessary funds to address these issues. It is discouraging, and reflects a lack of commitment from the White House to support the needs of refugees worldwide."

Press Release from Refugees International


Anonymous said...

I really don't think enough people are aware of this situation. Somehow a spotlight needs to be brought to this growing problem.

Anonymous said...

Better start hitting McCain with questions on this issue since he's looking more and more like he's going to follow in Bush's footsteps.

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