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 Congressman John D. Dingell, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, lauded the passage of the FY 2008 Emergency Supplemental Bill. The bill provides for $675 million in funding – $454 million above the President’s request – to address the refugee crisis in Iraq and elsewhere. In particular, $300 million has been allocated for the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account and $25 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account in the FY 2008 Supplemental as well as $350 million for the MRA in FY 2009. In addition, the bill provides $150,000 in bilateral aid to Jordan to specifically address the refugee crisis. Hastings and Dingell will continue to urge Congress to increase funding in the future to address the plight of Iraqi refugees and IDPs.
“The passage of the Emergency Supplemental is a significant step forward in addressing this deepening crisis. However, more must be done. As we face a global food shortage coupled with diminishing resources available to meet the daily needs of Iraqi refugees and IDPs, urgent support is needed to handle this situation. We must put ourselves in the shoes of Iraqis who have traveled a long and difficult road. Whose lives have been turned upside down and who may never get the life they once lived back. Irrespective of one’s views on the war, Congress must work with the Administration to appropriately address the calamity unfolding in the region. The U.S. has a moral obligation to lead, but can’t go it alone. I am committed to working with Congress and the Administration to implement feasible solutions. I am pleased by the passage of this bill and I thank Chairman Obey for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him in the future,” said Chairman Hastings.
“I am very pleased that the Democratic Congress will be dedicating funds to assist Iraqis displaced because of the war and the ongoing ethnic and sectarian conflict in Iraq. This action shows a real commitment on the part of the United States to address what is the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crisis. We have a lot of work to do to repair the damage to Iraq and the lives of its citizens, as well as our reputation around the world. By providing increased humanitarian aid and bilateral assistance to our allies in the region, we are taking an important step in that direction. I look forward to continuing to work for increased funding for Iraqi refugees in the Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations bills, and continuing to pressure the Bush Administration to address this problem in way that reflects the compassion and decency that makes up the true nature of America’s character,” said Dingell.
Chairman Hastings has introduced comprehensive legislation to address this humanitarian and potential security crisis. In January, Chairman Hastings and Dingell wrote to President Bush requesting an additional $1.5 billion in funding in the FY 2009 budget, and also called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to layout a long-term plan to address the plight of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced populations (IDPs). In April, Chairman Hastings joined with Congressman Bill Delahunt and nine of his Congressional colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urging the government of Iraq to use $1 billion (4 percent) of its expected $25 billion budget surplus to assist Iraqi refugees and IDPs.