Iraqi refugees are leaving Utah to go home

Ann has written about Utah as one of the growing number of states in which we’re learning Iraqi refugees are unable to find work and living in poverty.  The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

About a dozen Utah Iraqis have left or are on the verge of leaving for Iraq or other Middle Eastern countries. For some, Utah’s Muslim community has collected donations for plane tickets.

According to this link Ann provided a couple of weeks ago, there are between 100 and 1,000 Iraqi refugees in Utah. Ann also found a $27-million earmark in the stimulus bill for housing for refugees in Utah, and a new program there for housing subsidies for refugees. Nevertheless, life is very difficult. The article opens with the usual sad personal story.

Six months ago, Tarek Darwish and his family arrived in Utah as refugees craving a new and better life. Last week, his family wept and kissed his hand in farewell as the former lawyer, disillusioned, left to return to Iraq.

Life in Utah has been a list of disappointments. His family of seven lives in a two-bedroom apartment. None of the adults have jobs. His wife needs glasses and dental work but has been told Utah’s Medicaid won’t cover them.

He feels betrayed by the United Nations’ promises and the scant help offered by the American resettlement system. He hopes his family will follow when school is out.

Then the usual about our inadequate support for refugees.

…As human rights organizations call for aid and resettlement for millions of Iraqi refugees, some who are exasperated by America’s refugee system are going home or attempting to return to other countries in the Middle East. They feel abandoned by federal policies that offer limited and brief financial support and leave many refugees living in poverty.

Refugees planning to leave acknowledge they may be less safe in Iraq, but believe they will be better able to afford food, pay rent and receive medical care.

So do the human rights organizations care what happens once the refugees get here, or do they just want to feel good by calling for large-scale resettlement in the U.S.? And I’m fed up with articles that talk about “less safe” and “dangers” without specifying that Iraq is hundreds of times safer than it was when the refugees left, and that the sectarian fighting which was the main thing that forced them to leave is pretty much over. It’s more dangerous than Utah, but the Iraqis who are leaving are making a rational decision about costs and benefits in each place.

And I don’t understand this. Actually, I just don’t believe it:

From the U.S. State Department to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which is not recommending large-scale return, officials say they have heard the stories of Iraqis returning but believe it to be more a trickle than a flood. The number is not tracked.

On January 30 I posted on an Associated Press article that began:

BRUSSESLS, Belgium — If the security situation in Iraq continues to improve, the number of refugees and displaced people returning to their homes could more than double this year to 500,000, the U.N. refugee agency said Thursday.

After years of extreme violence Iraq is now experiencing markedly improved security, said Daniel Endres, Baghdad representative of the Geneva-based agency.

“Although this security remains fragile, last year we saw a significant return as a result,” he told journalists in Brussels.

More than 220,000 Iraqis who fled abroad or were displaced within the country after the U.S.-led invasion returned home in 2008, according to U.N. statistics.

The UN keeps all kinds of statistics, as does our State Department. What I don’t understand is how the reporter could have let the statement go by that the number of refugees returning home is not tracked. The numbers might not be accurate — it’s probably quite difficult to get a count — but there are numbers.

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