another cost of the occupation of iraq: iraqi refugees

My previous post gives me an opportunity to blog about something that's been sitting in my inbox for ages.

These two videos are part of a campaign to focus attention on the five million Iraqis who have been made refugees from the US invasion and occupation of their country. The most serious situations are in Syria and Jordan.

Refugees International is calling on US President Obama to include Iraqi refugees in the US's plans for Iraq. The organization's language strives for the neutral and apolitical - the US "military intervention" in Iraq? that's quite a mouthful - but I'm sure that's necessary in their line of work. I don't know why the website says "five years," as the invasion took place in 2003, six years ago.

But my quibbles aside, we must remember all the costs of war. Along with the dead, the wounded, the psychologically shattered, there are the millions of people displaced from their homes, everything they own destroyed, family members dead or disappeared, left to cope in a surreal world, a vacuum. Why? Because they had the bad luck to live in a place the US wants to control. A place with oil.
Five years into the US military intervention in Iraq, the country is dealing with one of the largest humanitarian and displacement crises in the world. Millions of Iraqis have fled their homes – either for safer locations within Iraq, or to other countries in the region – and are living in increasingly desperate circumstances. Failure to address the needs of Iraqis will have dramatic impacts on security inside Iraq.

Current Humanitarian Situation

Refugees International has observed extreme vulnerabilities among the approximately 1.5 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, Jordan and other neighbors of Iraq, as well as the 2.7 million internally displaced persons within Iraq. Most are unable to access their food rations and are often unemployed; they live in squalid conditions, have run out of resources and find it extremely difficult to access essential services.

The Government of Iraq has access to large sums of money, but it lacks both the capacity and the political will to use its resources to address humanitarian needs. Due to this failure, militias of all denominations are filling the vacuum and playing a major role in providing social services in the neighborhoods and towns they control in Iraq. Not only do these Shiite and Sunni militias now have a quasi-monopoly in the large-scale delivery of food, oil, electricity and money, but an increasing number of civilians are joining their ranks– including displaced Iraqis.

Some Iraqis who have tried to return home have found their homes occupied or destroyed, the likelihood of violence still high, a collapse of social services, and neighborhoods divided into homogeneous, sectarian areas. While Refugees International hopes that Iraqis will be able to return to their homes in the future, the necessary conditions for returns to take place in safety and dignity do not exist. Returns must not be encouraged until the violence subsides and people can receive adequate assistance and protection.

Actions Needed

The U.S. must craft a new policy to:
1. Assist Iraqi refugees.
2. Ensure a safe, voluntary return home when possible.
3. Pressure Iraq to meet its responsibilities to its own people.
4. Increase resettlement for those who can't go home.

Read more about our comprehensive plan here.

Refugee International's website says: "A campaign by Refugees International and other organizations led the U.S. State department to increase the resettlement of Iraqi refugees from 200 in 2006 to 13,823 Iraqis in 2008." 13,823 is a small portion of five million, but that's nearly 14,000 people who would be suffering even more today, had it not been for these advocacy groups.

You can show your support by signing a letter to Obama. Refugee International's blog is here.

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