Thursday, July 31, 2008

Plight of Iraqi refugees demands 'humanitarian surge'

In today’s edition of The Hill, Congressmen Hastings and Dingell published an editorial calling for a “humanitarian surge” to confront the refugee and displacement crisis in Iraq. “Not nearly enough attention and resources have been devoted to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region…Iraqis remain stranded, jobless and deprived of essential services, with conditions worsening by the day. As resources are depleted and desperation sets in, this deepening humanitarian crisis threatens to further destabilize the entire region.”

Congressmen Hastings and Dingell, along with Congressman Shays, recently introduced the Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Security Act (H.R. 6496), a long-term comprehensive strategy to address the humanitarian and security crisis in Iraq and the region.

Specifically, H.R. 6496 supports a multi-year, comprehensive plan to address the deepening crisis facing Iraqi refugees, displaced persons and other vulnerable Iraqis by doing the following:
  • Authorizing $700 million for each of the fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011 for the relief of Iraqi refugees, internally displaced persons, and other vulnerable Iraqis;
  • Increasing direct accountable bilateral assistance, as appropriate under U.S. law, and funding for international organizations and NGOs working in the region;
  • Authorizing $500 million to increase infrastructure support for Jordan to help meet the needs of 100,000s of Iraqi refugees;
  • Providing technical assistance to grow the capacity of Iraqi government agencies responding to humanitarian needs inside Iraq;
  • Increasing Iraqi refugees admissions to the United States by 20,000 for FY 2009, 2010 and 2011, and requires improvements in the efficiency of the resettlement application process;
  • Establishing a Special Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons within the Executive Office of the President to ensure expeditious and effective implementation of the overall strategy; and
  • Urging increased cooperation between the United States government and the international community to address this crisis.
The bill has already been endorsed by more than 25 non-governmental organizations and religious groups and is generating a huge amount of excitement in the NGO community. In their editorial, Congressmen Hastings and Dingell urge their colleagues to “set partisan politics aside and work together to find common solutions to this desperate situation.”

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