U.S. response to Iraqi refugees “shockingly inadequate,” refugee advocate says

.- The director of the U.S. bishops’ refugee program testified before Congress on Thursday, saying that the United States’ response to the Iraqi refugee crisis is “shockingly inadequate.” He also lamented that the country is not doing “everything in its power” to address the looming crisis. 

At present, there are about two million Iraqi refugees outside of their home country, mostly in Jordan and Syria, while there are two and a half million people estimated to be displaced within Iraq.

Anastasia K. Brown, director of Refugee Programs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), presented testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia in a joint hearing. 

She told the hearing the United States “should and must” do more to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi refugee population.  She specifically referenced the small number of Iraqi refugees resettled in the United States.  While the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had referred 24,000 vulnerable cases to the United States for resettlement, only 4,000 have entered the country since the beginning of 2007.

Brown called the response “shockingly inadequate,” arguing that the United States is capable of operating large operations to avert humanitarian crises, given enough political will.  She said 135,000 Vietnamese refugees had been resettled in one year at the end of the Vietnam War.  In a six-month period in 1999, 14,000 Kosovars were settled in the U.S. 

The U.S. could resettle at least 60,000 Iraqis each year, Brown claimed, saying this would rescue vulnerable groups and relieve pressure on countries hosting refugees.

Migration and Rescue Services of the USCCB, in conjunction with the International Migration Commission, has released a detailed study on the needs of vulnerable Iraqi refugees in Syria.  The report examines the difficulties of special needs refugees, such as unaccompanied children and women heads-of-households.  It also assesses the existing responses to their needs and recommends the best approaches to helping the refugee populations.

The report is available at http://www.usccb.org/mrs/tripreport.shtml.

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