Wednesday, July 16, 2008
In the International Crisis Group's July 10th report, Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, I came across the following paragraph:
"Expected in 2003 with the war's onset, the crisis began two years later but was greater than anticipated. While initially welcoming their Iraqi brethren, Syria and Jordan soon put tough restrictions on entry. They provided few basic services and inadequate opportunities for jobs, health care and children's education. There is a real risk that with little to lose and nothing to look forward to, refugees could become radicalized."
This hit me on two sides because it takes a very human issue (people fleeing their home country) that has escalated to almost inhuman proportions (about 5 million Iraqi's have fled their homes to date) and then it almost permanently crosses the line to speaking on the issue purely in terms of numbers, which is a very real danger, because it is when suffering people are seen only in terms of their number that people allow themselves to stop caring.
But this so called radicalization that is mentioned in the ICG report does not occur to numbers, rather it happens within individuals for unique reasons. In dealing with crises of such proportion, it is vital to remember this.
So, what's the U.S. doing?
Courtesy of Congressional Quarterly, a la my roommate Mr. Mattingly:
Plan Advances for Iraqi Refugee Coordinator
By Phil Mattingly, CQ Staff
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would create a White House coordinator to oversee U.S. efforts to aid Iraqi refugees.
The committee approved the bill (HR6328) by voice vote. Sponsored by panel Chairman Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., it would create an ambassador-level position to coordinate the resettlement of Iraqi refugees.
An estimated 2 million refugees have been driven out of Iraq and another 2.7 million have been internally displaced since the United States invaded the country in 2003.
The U.S. government has been criticized for being slow to resettle Iraqis, particularly those who worked as drivers, translators and support workers for U.S. personnel. The State and Homeland Security departments have refugee coordinators, but advocates for the legislation say a higher-level effort is needed.
The latest war supplemental spending law (PL 110-252) included $696 million for refugee programs, much of which will go to Iraq and its neighbors. In fiscal 2007, 1,608 Iraqis settled in the United States, and the State Department plans to resettle 12,000 more Iraqis in fiscal 2008. A total of 45,200 Iraqis sought asylum in the United States in 2007.
A substitute amendment to the bill, adopted by voice vote, inserted text to require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide programs to address the psychosocial and medical needs of refugees resettled in the United States. It also would require the coordinator to consult with the Jordanian government to provide assistance to that country in dealing with Iraqi refugees.