Monday, December 11, 2006

Iraq Refugee Crisis Is Growing

Refugees International reports that Iraq now has the fastest-growing refugee population in the world: 2.3 million Iraqis have left Iraq to escape the violence there; 1.8 million of those have fled to other countries in the region -- which of course is creating massive social, economic, and logistical problems for those countries.

Then there is this particularly chilling passage:

"Iraqis who are unable to flee the country are now in a queue, waiting their turn to die," is how one Iraqi journalist summarizes conditions in Iraq today. While the US debates whether a civil war is raging in Iraq, thousands of Iraqis face the possibility of death every day all over the country.

R.I. has a few suggestions for how the U.S. and the West in general can help:

The United States must begin by acknowledging that violence in Iraq has made civilian life untenable, creating a refugee crisis that is essentially exporting the nation’s instability to neighboring countries. To deal with this crisis, Refugees International proposes the following:

1. Given its central role in Iraq, the US should lead an international initiative to support Middle Eastern countries hosting Iraqi civilians. The US should recognize and support the constructive role Syria is playing in hosting Iraqi refugees and help it keep its borders open.

2. Donors must significantly increase their support to UNHCR and other UN agencies must participate in the relief efforts for Iraqi refugees.

3. Western countries, including the US, must agree to resettle particularly vulnerable groups, without prejudice to their right to return to their country as recognized under international law.

Yeah, good luck with all that. It's hard to imagine the Bush administration stepping back from the saber-rattling and the apocalyptic talk of "good battling evil"; and actually trying to find some small patch of common ground with "the enemy."

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