The forgotten refugees of the U.S. war on Iraq

Published on Socialist Worker online, October 19, 2007.

… WHATEVER CRITICISMS can be made of the Jordanian and Syrian governments’ treatment of refugees, it is exceedingly generous in comparison to the locked-door policy of the U.S.

Between April 2003 and January 2007, the U.S. had resettled just 753 Iraqi refugees. The government promised to increase that number by 7,000 in the 2007 fiscal year, but recently admitted that only 1,608 had been resettled so far.

The Bush administration tried to change the subject by playing up financial support for UNHCR and other relief agencies. But Kristele Younes of the organization Refugees International says that the U.S. contribution – a new $100 million announced earlier this year – is tiny in view of the needs of Iraqi refugees.

“Since October 2006, the U.S. government has gone from denying that large numbers of vulnerable Iraqi refugees even existed to speaking openly of an ‘Iraqi refugee crisis,’” she wrote in May. “But its actual financial commitments are commensurate neither with the need nor with the U.S. role in creating the displacement crisis in the first place. The president and his war cabinet have yet to recognize the human toll the violence has been taking on Iraqi civilians and neighboring countries”.

Nir Rosen made a similar point. “This is not any other crisis,” he wrote. “It is an American-made humanitarian catastrophe.” Rosen noted that the International Organization of Migration issued an appeal for $85 million over two years, but has received less than half that amount.

For its part, the UNHCR has increased its budget for Iraqi refugees from $23 million to $123 million, and joined with UNICEF to try to raise $129 million for the education of Iraqi refugee children. But all this is a pittance compared to U.S. spending on war and occupation … (full text).

Link: Millions in flight, the Iraqi refugee crisis.

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