WASHINGTON—In recognition of World Refugee Day, leaders of the U.S. Helsinki Commission today called for increased international efforts to support an estimated 2 million Iraqi refugees displaced in Jordan, Syria and other countries since the war in Iraq began in 2003.
“Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people are children; their desperation grows and their situation becomes more precarious as time passes. Adding to the plight of these children, most have not been to school in more than four years, which is unacceptable” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission). “While the United States strongly supports the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the governments of host countries and others in the region to educate refugee children and assist their families, we must continue to press the government of Iraq to do more to support its own people and invest in its future.”
With 50,000 U.S. troops scheduled to redeploy from Iraq by the end of August there has been an added concern about how Iraqis who risked their lives to help the United States mission in Iraq will be treated when U.S. forces leave.
“All of these U.S.-affiliated Iraqis are considered ‘collaborators’ or ‘traitors’ and are targeted for assassination by Al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups – many have already paid the ultimate price for their service,” Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) said. “The United States must immediately develop a plan to assist the thousands of Iraqis who currently work for us and live alongside us as interpreters, engineers and advisors. We have a moral obligation to do so. My amendment to the recently passed Defense Authorization bill would do just that.”
Co-Chairman Hastings introduced the Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Security Act (H.R. 578) to address this crisis by significantly increasing funding to assist displaced Iraqis and help those seeking to immigrate to America.
On June 20, World Refugee Day, people around the world will pause to contemplate the plight and consider strategies to address the suffering of the more than 40 million people who have been displaced from their homes and communities, constantly on the move searching for security and the basic necessities of life.