NEW YORK, Jan. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The International Rescue
Committee (IRC) is urging the United States, the European Union and other
leading nations to respond quickly to the plight of refugees who have fled
Iraq and to support U.N. efforts to assist them.
"The flight of almost 2 million Iraqi citizens to other countries makes
this a refugee crisis of historic proportions," said George Rupp, president
of the IRC. "It is urgent that the international community meet the U.N.
refugee agency's appeal for $60 million as a first step in addressing the
needs of these people."
The funding would assist the nearly 2 million refugees who the U.N.
says have fled to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, as well as 1.7
million citizens who have been displaced inside the borders of Iraq itself.
The IRC also called on the U.S. government to launch an expanded
initiative to resettle Iraqi refugees in the United States, with a focus on
three groups: the most vulnerable, particularly religious minorities; those
with relatives already in the United States; and those at special risk
because of their association in Iraq with U.S.-led Coalition forces or the
Coalition's civilian contractors. A number of these Iraqis -- including
translators and drivers -- have been killed, and the security of their
surviving family members has been compromised. "The U.S. bears a special
obligation to such individuals, and they should be afforded protection and,
when necessary, the opportunity of expedited resettlement in the United
States," said Robert Carey, the IRC's vice president of resettlement.
"Even with an expanded program, only a small portion of refugees from
Iraq can be resettled in the United States," Carey said. "So it is urgent
that the U.S. and the international community begin supporting the U.N.
refugee agency's efforts on the ground to coordinate aid and ensure the
safety and security of the huge population of displaced Iraqis."
"We know from experience that loss of life, disease and misery can
occur when large numbers of people are displaced and lack access to food,
shelter, clothing, sanitation or protection," Carey said. "To date there
has been no systematic registration and no comprehensive, coordinated
approach or response to the growing refugee population." These measures
need to be undertaken immediately, both for humanitarian reasons and to
prevent a destabilization of the region that could be caused by the
presence of massive numbers of desperate refugees, he said.
Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee is a global leader
in relief, rehabilitation, post-conflict development, advocacy and
resettlement services for refugees and others uprooted or affected by
violent conflict and oppression. In the United States, the IRC has
resettled thousands of refugees who fled Iraq while it was ruled by Saddam
Hussein, and provided relief services in Iraq in 1991 after the Gulf War
and in 2003 after the invasion that toppled the Hussein regime.
Ed Bligh (New York)
Anne Richard (Washington)
202-822-0166, Ext. 10
SOURCE International Rescue Committee