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Hastings Comments on Iraqi Refugee Crisis Before Foreign Affairs Subcommittees

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) made the following statement during a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia and the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. The hearing entitled, “No Direction Home: An NGO Perspective on Iraqi Refugees and IDPs,” focused on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons:

“Thank you, Chairman Ackerman and Chairman Delahunt for holding this extremely important hearing today. I am honored to be here.

“A major stumbling block of the Iraqi refugee crisis is that not enough attention has been focused on the humanitarian calamity unfolding in the region. While there is plenty of fiery partisan rhetoric by Congress, the Administration and Presidential candidates over the war, the conditions of Iraqi refugees and IDPs continues to deteriorate. This increased deterioration is becoming a recipe for disaster.

“If Congress and the Administration fail to broaden their focus on Iraq, the security implications could potentially further destabilize the region. Militia groups within Iraq are providing substantial assistance to displaced Iraqis. And host countries such as Jordan and Syria are dealing with an increasingly desperate refugee population.

“This increased desperation, combined with resentment among host country populations could just be the calm before the storm.

“We must look beyond partisan politics and focus on the real problem at hand – a burgeoning humanitarian crisis. I have introduced comprehensive legislation; written to President Bush requesting an additional $1.5 billion in funding to the FY 2009 budget as well as to Secretary Rice calling on her to layout a long-term plan to address this crisis. This alone will not solve the problem.

“Before this situation further implodes, Congress and the Administration must work together to implement feasible solutions, including garnering support from Europe and Gulf States. The U.S. has a moral obligation to lead, but can’t go it alone.

“In closing, I would just like to recognize all the NGOs working with Iraqi refugees and IDPs, who are truly the lifeline to those men, women and children that are suffering. I want to thank you for your service to your organization and your commitment to making this a better world.”

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