Continued violence in Iraq, job loss, and lack of basic services have driven millions of Iraqis from their homes, creating the largest population displacement in the Middle East since 1948.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee holds a hearing today on U.S. Iraqi refugee responsibilities. Despite its role in the conflict, the United States has allowed less than 6,000 of the more than 4 million Iraqi refugees to resettle on American soil. Many Iraqis have relocated to other parts of Iraq, and others have sought asylum in neighboring countries, which are bearing the brunt of the problem.
Millions of Iraqi Refugees Are Relocating Around the Middle East
More than 4 million: Estimated number of Iraqis displaced since the 2003 invasion
2.2 million: Number of Iraqis displaced within Iraq
1.2 million: Number of refugees in Syria
750,000: Number of refugees in Jordan
100,000: Number of refugees in Egypt
400,000: Number of refugees in other Persian Gulf countries
The United States Has Allowed Few Iraqi Refugees In
5,742: Total number of Iraqis resettled to the United States as of January 24
25,000: The United States’ original refugee target in 2007, which later dropped to 7,000
1,608: The actual number of Iraqi refugees admitted to the United States in 2007
202: The number of refugees admitted to the United States in 2006
198: The number of Iraqi refugees admitted to the United States in 2005
12,000: Target for Iraqi refugee admittance in 2008 fiscal year. A goal that will be impossible to meet at the current admittance levels
The United States Has Been Generous to Refugees in Past Conflicts
900,000: Number of Vietnamese refugees accepted since the Vietnam War
600,000: Number of Russian Jews taken in during the Cold War
150,000: Number of Bosnian refugees accepted since the Bosnian conflict
2,000: Number of Kurds airlifted out of Iraq 10 years ago
We Can and Should Ramp Up Our Refugee Efforts
Instead of setting ambitious targets with lackluster funding and little accountability, the federal government should take the following actions to accept responsibility for this enormous problem:
- Recognize the scale and scope of the problem, assign high-level diplomats to the region, and develop a coordinated plan to address the crisis.
- Support legislation to increase the amount of humanitarian assistance to Iraq, provide increased bilateral aid to those countries hosting Iraqi refugees, and engage more directly with Syria.
- Increase the resettlement numbers of Iraqis, or at the very least meet the stated target of 12,000 in 2008.
- Make the process less onerous and cumbersome for Iraqis seeking asylum by allowing for in-country visa processing, making screening less restrictive, and providing more financial assistance to those admitted on special immigrant visas.
- Begin contingency planning for returns and resettlement in coordination with the Iraqi government and United Nations.
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