Iraqi Refugees Urgently Need Help from U.S., Other Nations, Says International Rescue Committee, Citing 'Crisis of Historic Proportions'
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. Contact: Ed Bligh (New York) 212-551-3114 Ed.Bligh@theIRC.org Anne Richard (Washington) 202-822-0166, Ext. 10 646-267-4343 (cell) Anne.Richard@theIRC.org
SOURCE International Rescue Committee
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