Iraqi Refugees Urgently Need Help from U.S., Other Nations, Says International Rescue Committee, Citing 'Crisis of Historic Proportions'

Jan 12, 2007, 00:00 ET from International Rescue Committee

    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
     646-267-4343 (cell)

SOURCE International Rescue Committee