For Immediate Release: June 19, 2007
Human Rights First today welcomed “The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act,” co-sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) which would provide safe haven to those Iraqis who are at risk because of their work with the United States or with U.S. organizations.
“This bill will extend a long-overdue lifeline to Iraqi refugees who have fled from persecution and danger, ” said Eleanor Acer, Director of the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First. “I hope this legislation spurs action within the administration, which has yet to respond to this growing crisis with the necessary scale or urgency.”
Senators Kennedy and Smith introduced the legislation in anticipation of World Refugee Day on June 20, the date set aside to focus global attention on the plight of the world’s refugees and their struggles against oppression and persecution. The Kennedy-Smith bill would:
- Create a new resettlement category for Iraqi refugees of special humanitarian concern;
- Create a special immigrant visa for Iraqis who worked directly with the U.S.;
- Require refugee processing in Iraq and in the region;
- Create special coordinators for Iraqi refugees; and
- Encourage assistance to countries in the region that host large numbers of Iraqi refugees.
Other cosponsors include Senators Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Charles Hagel (R-Neb.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)
Since 2003, more than 2.2 million Iraqis have fled violence and persecution in their homeland. Many have been targeted because of their work for the United States or with U.S. organizations. Others have been targeted because of their ethnicity or religion.
Those who have fled to Jordan and Syria are living in dire conditions. Many are at risk of exploitation, detention, and deportation. They lack access to medical treatment, education for their children, food, and a means of supporting their families. As this crisis grows, the protection of refugees, the institution of asylum, and the stability of the region are all at risk.
“With every day, the plight of Iraqi refugees and those displaced within Iraq grows more urgent,” Acer stated. “The U.S. must lead the international community in addressing this crisis in a comprehensive manner, and the Kennedy-Smith legislation is an important step down the path to such a comprehensive solution.”