Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five-Year Iraq Conflict Has Caused Massive Refugee Crisis; IRC Commission Calls U.S./World Response ‘Grossly Inadequate’

Photo: Melissa Winkler/The IRCpress release from the International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq five years ago and its violent aftermath have produced one of the largest humanitarian crises of our time, yet the “Coalition of the Willing” has been mostly unwilling to own up to it and provide adequate aid for the innocent bystanders.

More than four million Iraqi civilians are estimated to be uprooted by horrific violence and in dire need of help in a crisis that is largely hidden from the public and ignored by the international community, according to a report issued today by the International Rescue Committee’s Commission on Iraqi Refugees. The report, “
Five Years Later, a Hidden Crisis,” is available here.

The report comes after an IRC Commission trip in February to refugee-inundated Syria and Jordan to examine the worsening crisis and seek ways to expedite aid and resettlement. The delegates met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad and other Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, U.S. and U.N. officials, along with dozens of Iraqi refugees.

“Neither the U.S. nor the rest of the world is paying sufficient heed to the crisis,” the report states, adding that help offered by the U.S., primarily, as well as other international and regional donors, has been paltry and halfhearted.

The IRC Commission found that already bleak conditions for hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan are growing worse by the day. Most live in dilapidated and congested apartments in poor urban areas. They are running out of money, because they are not permitted to work, and can no longer afford the basics, like rent, heat and food. They are getting sick or suffer chronic illnesses, but have limited access to medical care. They are severely traumatized by the violence they witnessed, endured and fled. They suffer deep despair because of lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones. They worry incessantly about the fate of their children and the safety of relatives displaced or trapped by violence in Iraq. They are anxious about their uncertain future.

The commissioners point out that the majority of Iraqi refugees are educated, had decent jobs and were leading middle class lives in Iraq, but that most are now destitute. “The chasm between where they were and where they are now is deep and wide,” they say.

Contrary to media reports that indicate refugees are repatriating because of improved safety in Iraq, all Iraqis in Syria and Jordan queried by the commission found unimaginable the prospect of returning any time soon to ruined and occupied homes in still-volatile communities.

The IRC Commission believes that the United States Government has a special responsibility to aid Iraqis and significantly address a humanitarian crisis that it had a role in creating. However, the U.S. cannot do it alone. The delegates say the scale of the humanitarian emergency requires a significant international response and that Europe and Arab states, including Iraq, should and can be doing much more. “It is both a humanitarian and political imperative,” they assert.

For IRC's recommendations and the full text of the
press release, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am enthusiastically all for aid and accepting far more Iraqi refugee immigation to the U.S. But, we must temper this with the reality the the fighting presents problems. Once the fighting ends, the problems can be solved.

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