Begin forwarded message:
> From: Kristele Younes and Sean Garcia
> Date: December 6, 2006 3:57:09 PM GMT-03:00
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Iraqi Refugee Crisis: International Response Urgently Needed
> Reply-To: RefugeesInternational@mail.democracyinaction.org
> A POWERFUL VOICE FOR LIFESAVING ACTION
> December 6, 2006
> Contacts: Kristele Younes and Sean Garcia
> email@example.com or 202-828-0110
> For media inquiries, please contact:
> Erica Sackin, 212-854-5000 x335
> Iraqi Refugee Crisis:
> International Response Urgently Needed
> Read today's Washington Post Op-ed on Iraqi refugees by RI
> President Ken Bacon.
> (free login required)
> With the violence in Iraq showing no sign of slowing down,
> civilians increasingly suffer. More than two million Iraqis have
> fled their homes, and the exodus is accelerating. By November 2006,
> an estimated 1.8 million Iraqis had already sought shelter in
> neighboring countries, while at least 500,000 more had been
> displaced within Iraq since 2003. Middle Eastern countries, Syria
> and Jordan in particular, have shown great generosity in welcoming
> Iraqis in the past three years, but that welcome is wearing thin.
> Tensions are rising as refugees overburden public services. Host
> countries urgently need international assistance. In particular,
> the United Nations and its refugee agency must dramatically
> increase resources and operations in Syria and Jordan.
> Generalized Violence Drives up Refugee Numbers
> Everybody is a potential target in Iraq. Refugees International met
> with dozens of Iraqi families of all faiths and backgrounds who had
> been targeted for different reasons: their religion, economic
> status, ethnicity or profession. As a result, Iraqis are seeking
> refuge throughout the Middle East. Syria and Jordan have absorbed
> more than 700,000 each and hundreds of thousands more are in Egypt,
> Turkey, Kuwait and Iran. More than 40,000 Iraqis are arriving in
> Syria each month, and numbers are likely similar for Jordan.
> Syrian Response
> For the time being, Syria is maintaining its “open door policy” to
> Iraqi refugees in the name of pan-Arabism. In addition to the
> influx of Iraqi refugees, Syria is home to 450,000 Palestinians,
> and has also provided assistance and temporary shelter to hundreds
> of thousands of Lebanese civilians fleeing the bombings during the
> recent Israel-Lebanon conflict. Syria’s resources are stretched
> thin. Before 2005, Iraqis had access to the same public services as
> Syrians. In the face of the growing Iraqi population, Syria started
> imposing restrictions on Iraqi refugees; it now charges for
> healthcare that used to be free. Similarly, until recently Iraqis
> were issued six-month visas. Recent policy changes now limit Iraqis
> to a three-month visa, and force them to undertake expensive trips
> to exit the country and renew their visas.
> Lebanese and Jordanian Response
> In Lebanon and Jordan, the situation is even more difficult for
> Iraqis. Both countries are now showing a diminishing tolerance for
> Iraqi presence. In Lebanon, which hosts about 40,000 Iraqis,
> refugees are increasingly arrested for illegal presence, imprisoned
> and forced to choose between remaining in prison and being
> deported. While Lebanon has closed its borders to Iraqis entirely,
> Jordan continues to let Iraqis in, albeit selectively. Unlike in
> Syria, Iraqis have to pay for all services and live in constant
> fear of deportation. The Jordanian government, concerned about the
> risk of instability, has shut its border to young men, forcing
> families to separate. Visas are issued on a sporadic basis, and
> while many Iraqis reported receiving a standard three-month visa,
> there were growing reports, many documented by RI, that border
> officials are issuing transit visas – many as short as two days –
> to Iraqis. As a result, Iraqis are quickly falling out of status
> and are subject to potential deportation.
> International Response
> Iraq’s neighbors are overwhelmed by the scope of the crisis. While
> many diplomatic missions in both Syria and Jordan are now concerned
> by the increasing numbers of Iraqis seeking shelter, they feel that
> the US, given its role in Iraq, should lead humanitarian efforts in
> the surrounding countries. However, the US has responded minimally
> to the refugee flow. With services already stretched thin or denied
> outright to Iraqis, host governments need international support to
> help meet Iraqis’ basic needs. International leadership is needed
> to develop a coherent regional burden sharing plan, and
> international resources must allow host countries to finance the
> basic needs of Iraqi refugees on their territory.
> United Nations Response
> Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee
> Convention, and work with the Office of the United Nations High
> Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under Memoranda of Understanding
> that bind the agency to resettle every person it declares a
> refugee. Those who are not resettled within one year face either
> prison detention or deportation to their home country. With few
> countries willing to resettle Iraqis – less than 1,500 have been
> resettled since 2003, and 50 percent of the cases submitted by
> UNHCR are rejected – UNHCR has been forced to limit Refugee Status
> Determination interviews to only the most vulnerable cases.
> Ironically, since UNHCR lacks the resources to register refugees,
> host countries are able to downplay the extent of the crisis,
> routinely noting that UNHCR has only 20,000 registered cases in
> Syria and 39,000 in Jordan. UNHCR has created a regime of temporary
> protection to provide some status for Iraqi refugees in the Middle
> East. Unrecognized by national laws however, this regime, designed
> to protect Iraqis from deportation back to Iraq, has little impact
> in reality, especially in Lebanon and Jordan.
> Lack of resources further keeps UNHCR from being able to monitor
> influxes and assist the most vulnerable. With bare-bones teams in
> Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, UNHCR cannot register incoming refugees
> at border crossings. Studies conducted by the UN and international
> agencies in Lebanon and Syria have shown that vulnerable Iraqis in
> both countries are in dire need of assistance on several levels.
> Although there is no official study for Jordan yet, needs
> documented by Refugees International are similar. Access to
> healthcare and education is a major issue, as are mental health and
> legal assistance needs. Extremely limited in its means, UNHCR can
> only provide the bare minimum for a small minority of the needy.
> UNHCR’s budget in Syria this year is just $700,000, less than one
> dollar per refugee. UNHCR needs resources to help Iraqi refugees,
> and it also needs food, medicine and other help from other UN
> agencies. UNHCR is the only UN agency assisting Iraqis in Lebanon
> and Jordan, while UNICEF and other agencies voice interest but
> provide little support in Syria. Given the growing impact of this
> crisis, UNHCR, as the lead agency for refugees, needs the technical
> support and expertise of its sister agencies.
> REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL RECOMMENDS:
> The US and international community acknowledge the scope of the
> crisis and provide assistance directly or indirectly to regional
> governments to help them absorb refugees and keep their borders open;
> Nations hosting Iraqi refugees recognize their needs, and work
> proactively with UNHCR and others to provide necessary services to
> Iraqi refugees;
> The UN help create a regional burden-sharing plan that includes all
> countries neighboring Iraq and obtains commitments from donors to
> provide resources to these countries;
> International donors increase substantially their support to UNHCR
> and fully meet their appeal for 2007;
> UNHCR and national governments devise alternatives to the temporary
> protection regime;
> Host countries work with the UN to increase the capacity of
> national health, education, and housing systems to provide adequate
> services for Iraqi refugees, including plans for international
> support for these services;
> Other UN agencies participate in relief efforts for Iraqis. The UN
> country teams need to make humanitarian response for Iraqis a
> priority in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
> Advocates Kristele Younes and Sean Garcia recently completed a
> three-week assessment mission to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
> Read more about the Iraqi refugee crisis.
> Read today's Washington Post Op-ed on Iraqi refugees by RI
> President Ken Bacon.
> Download a .pdf of this policy recommendation.
> Sign up to receive Email from Refugees International.
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> REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL
> 1705 N Street, NW
> Washington, DC 20036
> 202.828.0819 fax
David Preiss, Ph.D.
Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Escuela de Psicología
Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
web personal: http://web.mac.com/ddpreiss/
web institucional: http://www.uc.cl/psicologia
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