Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), chairman of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, is urging the US to step up efforts to provide assistance for Iraqi refugees. On February 26, 2008, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Craig Johnstone, testified to the subcommittee regarding US efforts to alleviate the Iraqi refugee problem. With approximately 2.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 2 million refugees, the Iraqi refugee situation is the largest in the world. Syria, Jordan, and Iraq’s other neighbors are sheltering the vast majority of Iraqi refugees, but funding for refugees and their host communities remains scarce. The International Organization for Migration reported that it only received 28 percent of its $85 million request for assistance with IDPs. Johnstone believes this lack of funding could be disastrous, “The lack of assistance to refugees and host communities in neighboring states could also lead to a mass (coerced) return to Iraq as the ability of host governments to provide assistance, as well as the coping mechanism of refugees, incrementally fail. The likelihood that the bulk of refugees will not be able to return to their original home and will be forced into secondary displacement will also have a significant destabilizing effect on the social and security environment within Iraq.”
Johnstone’s Written Statement: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/joh022608.htm
Delahunt’s Opening Statement: http://www.house.gov/delahunt/delahuntopening22608.pdf
In addition to increasing financial support, the US is expected to admit 12,000 refugees by the end of the fiscal year. As of February 2008, only 1,432 refugees have been admitted, leaving 10,568 for admission by September 30th. The administration has come under heavy criticism for its poor performance in admitting refugees, and many argue that the US needs to improve efforts to resettle the most vulnerable individuals.