Friday, March 30, 2007

Iraq's Refugees

Iraq's refugees are piling into neighbouring countries terrified of the continued persecution, kidnappings, aerial bombardment, torture, daily suicide bombings, and murderous Western ground forces. Doctors and other professionals are continuing to flee depleting already desperate hospitals. According to UNHCR there are at least 0.7million refugees in Jordan and 1.2 million in Syria. About 1 million are internally displaced within Iraq (source - Global IPD project). Jordan has implemented draconian measures to deal with the influx. Now anybody between the ages of 20 and 40 is automatically barred from entry and those allowed entry must have sufficient financial means. This means that desperate people who have the misfortune to have no money cannot escape or cannot accompany their families away from the violence. What will happen to those men aged between 20-40? Surely, they will have no option but to seek protection by taking up arms, swelling the numbers of fighting men joining the insurgency, army or militia leading to ever increasing bloodshed. Perhaps, that is what they want. Prolonged instability gives them the excuse to avoid leaving and gives them more time to complete their multi-billion dollar embassy and their permanent military bases that will gradually replace the dozens of temporary and semi-permanent bases that currently exist.

If the UN can authorise the continuing presence of occupying troops, then it has a duty to make those occupiers financially liable for the refugees. They bear responsibility for the instability and continuing carnage by launching a war of aggression. The billions of dollar bills that have mysteriously vanished in Iraq could and should have been used to help with this problem. Instead, there is no rebuilding (apart from plush hotels and shopping malls in the green zone) and no help for ordinary people who risk life and limb to venture out for food. Indeed, Amnesty International have pointed out the low number of refugees accepted by the USA and the failure to meet their obligations to the rest of the refugees.

Amnesty are not alone. This is a copy of a letter to The Times from HRW:

Plight of the Refugees

Letter to the Editor

Published in The Sunday Times

Your poll shows that one in four has been displaced in Iraq, many forced to flee abroad. The UK has studiously ignored nearly 2m refugees escaping violence and persecution, perhaps because recognising their existence would be an admission that the adventure in Iraq did not go as planned.

Britain has done almost nothing to help or relieve the burden on Iraq’s neighbours; in the past four years it has had no programme of resettlement nor has it earmarked significant humanitarian aid for Iraqi refugees.

For their own reasons, Iraq’s neighbours have also preferred to regard the Iraqis in their countries as “guests” or “illegal aliens” rather than as people with certain rights. Jordan, in particular, is taking a very hard line, closing its border to men of military age and refusing to honour documents issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UK can no longer shirk its responsibility. Offers of resettlement and assistance to Jordan and Syria should be quick and generous. But to protect Iraqi refugees, Britain must condition this support on Jordan stopping its rejection of Iraqi asylum-seekers at the border and agreeing to respect the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers on its territory.

Bill Frelick
Refugee Policy Director
Human Rights Watch
Washington, DC


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