Agencies from both sides of the Atlantic have made a plea to the US, UK and Iraq leaders for more help for Iraqi refugees, as the UNHCR’s figures reveal that refugees from Iraq account for a rise in the number of asylum seekers to industrialised countries.
A letter sent to United States President George Bush, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq calls on all three to address the continuing refugee crisis as a matter of urgency.
The letter, signed by a range of organisations¹ from both the United Kingdom and the United States, argues that not enough has been done to help refugees fleeing the conflict, whether they are displaced within Iraq, have found their way to neighbouring countries like Syria and Jordan, or who have managed to get to Britain or the United States under their own steam and who have been rejected for asylum.
While recognising that both Western states have put in place resettlement programmes, the agencies say that this is not enough to deal with the massive scale of the problem. Far more support should be offered to countries in the region which are dealing with millions of refugees fleeing the conflict, and a broader, more comprehensive resettlement programme be put in place to help the most vulnerable – not just those who have worked for the coalition forces.
The letter also calls on both the UK and US governments to refrain from implementing forced returns programmes. Iraqis who have fled the conflict should be offered the opportunity to work and support themselves, until such time as it is demonstrably safe for them to return.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also released figures showing a rise in the number of Iraqi asylum seekers across the industrialised world. Despite an overall fall in the numbers of asylum claims from other countries, the rise in numbers of claims from Iraqi nationals has caused the overall total of claims to increase.
However, the number of Iraqi asylum seekers in the world’s industrialised countries represents just 1 percent of the estimated total of 4.5 million Iraqis uprooted by the conflict.
The following organisations are signatories to the letter:
- Amnesty International UK
- Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA)
- Human Rights Watch UK
- International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
- International Rescue Committee UK
- Refugee Action
- Refugee Council
- Scottish Refugee Council
- Welsh Refugee Council
- Adrian Dominican Sisters
- American Friends Service Committee
- Amnesty International US
- Chaldean Federation of America
- Episcopal Church
- International Rescue Committee
- Human Rights First
- Human Rights Watch
- Kurdish Human Rights Watch
- Mandaean Associations Union
- Maryknoll Global Concerns
- Mennonite Central Committee
- Refugees International
- Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
- US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
- Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children