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Reps. Hastings and Dingell Urge Increased Funding for Iraqi Refugees

WASHINGTON – 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, sent the following letter yesterday to President Bush. The letter requests that the President appropriately address in his Fiscal Year 2009 budget the growing humanitarian crisis regarding Iraqi refugees and internally displaced populations (IDP) in Iraq. 

In particular, Hastings and Dingell are requesting $80 million to resettle 20,000 Iraqi refugees next year, $80 million in benefits for 5000 special immigrant visa recipients, $200 million for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance that will provide humanitarian assistance for those displaced within Iraq and $700 million in bilateral humanitarian assistance to Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon. In addition, the letter highlights the fact that additional funds may be required in any emergency supplemental appropriation bill for Iraq that the Administration may submit to Congress for this fiscal year. 

January 22, 2008 

President George W. Bush 
The White House 
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW 
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear Mr. President: 

As you prepare to submit your budget request for Fiscal Year 2009, we write to request that you appropriately address the growing population of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced populations (IDP’s) in Iraq. As you are no doubt aware, Iraqis are now the third-largest displaced population in the world and the fastest-growing refugee population globally. More than two million refugees have fled to neighboring countries such as Jordan and Syria, causing serious resource and security challenges for these countries. An additional 2.5 million Iraqis have been internally displaced, having fled their homes due to the ongoing threat of sectarian violence. 

Our government has a moral responsibility to provide leadership for this expanding humanitarian crisis. The prolonged massive displacement of Iraqis has grave potential to lead to a regional crisis with major security implications. Further, the current status of the United States international credibility means we can ill afford to continue to ignore the plight of our remaining allies. The United States Congress recently appropriated $70 billion to pay for the military effort in Iraq in Fiscal Year 2008. Surely we can dedicate appropriate funding for humanitarian aid to address this political and moral crisis before it further implodes. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) recently called for $261 million in assistance for refugees and IDPs, which would be used for financial support, health care, and other critical needs. We believe that it would be appropriate for the United States to fund at least 50% of this request, given our leadership role in the region. In addition, we request that you provide an additional $300 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance funds to address other needs that have been identified by nongovernmental organizations who have been working to assist the refugee population. 

We applaud the State Department’s decision to make Iraqi refugee resettlement a top priority, as evidence by the appointment of Ambassador James Foley as Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues. We also commend the State Department’s laudable goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees this year. We recommend you include in your budget $80 million to resettle 20,000 Iraqi refugees next year, and $80 million in benefits for 5000 special immigrant visa recipients. We also recommend that you provide $200 million for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance that will provide humanitarian assistance for those displaced within Iraq, and $700 million in bilateral assistance to Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon. We believe that additional funds may be required in any emergency supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq that your administration may submit to Congress for this fiscal year. 

We implore you to include, at a minimum, these necessary and critical funds in your budget request. We note that the $1.5 billion in funding that we have requested for next year is less than the cost of one week’s worth of war funds. The lives of millions of Iraqis literally depend on this aid. Thank you for considering these very important provisions to address the Iraqi refugee and internally displaced persons humanitarian crisis. We look forward to your response. 

Sincerely, 

____________________      ____________________ 

Alcee L. Hastings                      John D. Dingell 
Member of Congress               Member of Congress 

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