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Helsinki Commissioners Hold Meeting with Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey on Iraqi Refugee Crisis

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 and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), along with Helsinki Commissioner Congressman Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), met with Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Ellen Sauerbrey, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Lawrence Butler, Deputy Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security Jock Scharfen, and Ky Luu with USAID, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, regarding the massive displacement of Iraqis and the impending humanitarian crisis rapidly ensuing in the region. The Commissioners questioned Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey and Deputy Assistant Secretary Butler on the resettlement and security process for refugees as well as emphasizing the need for the United States to make a serious commitment to ensure the necessary funds are allocated accordingly. Lastly, the Commissioners asked for an update to be sent to members of Congress on the United States’ efforts on this matter.

“Whether you agree or disagree with U.S. policy on Iraq. One thing is crystal clear, we have a humanitarian crisis manifesting in the region that cannot be ignored. The United States must make a serious commitment in addressing this expanding crisis. As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission and Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs for the OSCE PA, I plan to make this issue a priority and I would urge my colleagues in Congress to do the same. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey and Deputy Assistant Secretary Butler for their candid remarks today. I believe the United States has a moral obligation to spearhead efforts to assist the growing Iraqi refugee populations and it is my sincere hope that Congress and this Administration can move forward positively and do so,” Hastings said.

“While our government has already taken some measures to address this dire situation, I am nonetheless concerned that we are not doing enough.  Iraqi refugees are facing a humanitarian crisis and it is incumbent upon the United States to provide leadership on this matter.  I am troubled by the fact that the United States has not been able to meet its resettlement goals and I hope that in the coming months we are able to assist those Iraqis who have helped coalition or reconstruction efforts.  I greatly appreciate the candor of today’s meeting.  I will continue to place increased attention on this expanding crisis,” said Cardin.  

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 or funding for international organizations that are working directly with the refugee and internally displaced populations. Hastings will introduce legislation later this month addressing this humanitarian crisis.

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