No matter how many Iraqi refugees we admit, we’ll always be told we need to take more. The IPS news agency reports:
Despite a marked increase in the number of Iraqi refugees admitted into the United States, experts on Iraq and human rights and refugee organisations are calling on Washington to open the door wider amid fears that returning home remains dangerous for many displaced Iraqis.
The U.S. government has met its target of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees for the 2008 fiscal year, which ended on Sep. 30, and promises to admit more than 17,000 for the next year, in addition to 5,000 under a special visa programme.
Okay, how many should we take?
Approximately 1.5 million Iraqi refuges live in Syria, Jordan and other neighbouring countries. Ninety thousand of them are seeking resettlement in the U.S., according to U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Groups that advocate on behalf of refugees have praised the increased numbers of Iraqi refugees being resettled in the U.S. But considering the vast number that are seeking resettlement, the groups say the U.S. is still not doing enough.
The reason 90,000 are said to be seeking resettlement here is that this is all that have been processed, I would guess. If we opened the doors to 90,000, how many of the remainder would want to come here? Almost all of them, I’ll bet. The article continues:
Many refugee and rights groups have noted a special responsibility for caring for displaced persons because the U.S. led the war that gave rise to the crisis.
This type of article never mentions our special responsibility for seeing that displaced persons return home safely, as the government of Iraq claims it would like them to do, and as many of them would probably like to do if they could be assured of their safety.
Now here’s something that needs further explanation. The target for next year is 17,000. But:
“I think you’ll see the U.S. government admitting, over the course of fiscal 2009, tens of thousands of Iraqis into the United States,” said Ambassador James Foley, who was appointed by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the post of Special Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues in 2007.
That’s just thrown into the article without further comment. Tens of thousands? How will this come about? Will Ambassador Foley personally take them in and resettle them? Will he personally change our quota? Now, about refugees going home:
In an interview with IPS, Phebe Marr, an Iraq expert and the author of “The Modern History of Iraq”, discussed the pros and cons that Iraqi families face when returning. “It’s much safer — there is no doubt about that. It’s calmed down and security seems much better,” said Marr.
But she also cautioned that these families could encounter difficulties when returning to Iraq. Some families find their homes have been occupied by others, and there are few job opportunities, she said.
I’ve written again and again about the housing problem. This seems to be the biggest barrier to returning. Obviously a lot of new houses have to be built. When is the Iraqi government going to get busy, or if it is too incompetent, when are we going to set up a program to get it done?
As for jobs, the economy is recovering and growing rapidly. Iraqis are pretty entrepreneurial and most of the refugees have skills, so many of them will create their own jobs or find something in the growing economy. And they will probably be better jobs than ones they could get here; we’ve seen how doctors and professors are reduced to working as hotel cleaners in the United States. Of course the statist mentality of the resettlement people and government agency employees doesn’t allow them to look at the economy like that. They think someone has to go in and build a big factory to employ people before they will be able to earn a living.
Now, about the Iraqi government’s responsibility:
The IRC statement also called for pressure on the Iraqi government and others to adequately address the refugee crisis and set a global standard for granting sanctuary to more Iraqi refugees — especially when they are imperilled and have exhausted other options.
The State Department was also critical of the Iraqi government for not doing enough for its refugees.
“The Iraqi government’s unwillingness thus far to significantly share the international burden of assisting refugees would become more understandable if it were undertaking a serious and credible effort to prepare for large-scale returns,” Foley said at the September press briefing.
In a recent statement, Refugees International alleged that the government of Iraq, despite a massive budget from increasing oil revenues, has been “ignoring the welfare of four million displaced Iraqis” by refusing to grant the requested funding to an Iraqi parliamentary committee on displacement and migration — the third such rejected request this year.
Iraq’s budget will be nearly 80 billion dollars, of which the committee has requested 4 billion dollars.
“There is no excuse for the government of Iraq’s poor response to the displacement of Iraqis,” said Younes [of Refugees International] in the statement. “…[T]he government has the resources to help people who have been uprooted from their homes.”
I wish I knew more about why the Iraqi government doesn’t do more for the refugees. Is it incompetence, or is there a sectarian reason, or is it something else? We’ve been hearing the same thing for a long time — they have the money but they won’t spend it. I’m glad to see the State Department and the refugee agencies are taking up the issue. I’ve never heard of refugees being an item in our negotiations with the Iraqi government, but it should be.