WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, introduced the “Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Security Act of 2007.” The legislation addresses the impending humanitarian crisis and security breakdown as a result of the mass influx of Iraqi refugees into neighboring countries, and the growing internally displaced populations in Iraq, by increasing direct accountable assistance to these populations and their host countries, increasing border security, and facilitating the resettlement of Iraqis at risk. (Please find a copy of the legislation here)
“According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2 million Iraqis have fled and another 2.2 million are internally displaced. This is a sobering reminder of the humanitarian crisis ensuing in the region. While the United States has been working to address this dire situation, not nearly enough is being done. The fact is Iraqis are the third-largest displaced population in the world and the fastest-growing refugee population globally. We cannot ignore this crisis; we must make a serious commitment to help Iraqi refugees and internally displaced populations.
“The nightmare that Iraqi refugees are facing is unfathomable and while the Administration has appointed individuals to help expedite the bureaucratic logjam, the severity of helping those who have helped coalition and reconstruction efforts must not be taken lightly. My legislation takes a comprehensive approach in addressing this worsening crisis. However, legislation alone will not help the plight of Iraqi refugees. It is imperative that this Administration work with Congress in an effort to find positive solutions before it is too late,” Hastings said.
On August 20, Hastings sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice highlighting the need for the United States to address this devastating situation with strong financial support, either through bilateral assistance to host countries or funding for international organizations that are working directly with the refugee and internally displaced populations. The State Department responded to Hastings’ letter on September 7 with a briefing by Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Ellen Sauerbrey, who had recently returned from the region. Hastings was joined at the briefing by Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Commissioner Congressman Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA). The members’ briefing addressed the massive displacement of Iraqis and the impending humanitarian crisis rapidly ensuing in the region. In addition, the commissioners raised the question of resettlement and security processing for refugees and emphasized the need for the United States to make a serious commitment to ensure the necessary funds are allocated accordingly. Lastly, the commissioners asked that an update be sent to members of Congress on the Administration’s efforts on this matter.