Petraeus and Crocker Testimonies on Refugees Missing Critical Information:
In their testimonies this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker implied that refugees and internally displaced Iraqis are or should be returning to their homes.
“By leaving out critical information, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker paint a misleading picture,” said Amelia Templeton, refugee advocate at Human Rights First. “They cannot, in one breath, state that improvements in security are uneven, fragile, and reversible, and then in the next imply that the country is safe for the return of some of the 4 million-plus Iraqi refugees who have fled violence and persecution in their homes.”
General Petraeus testified that the Iraqi government must “resettle” Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced. Ambassador Crocker testified that the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) has returned international staff to Iraq to assist with the return of internally displaced and refugees. Templeton noted that “the UN refugee agency has stated repeatedly, and in periods of less violence, that the agency is not promoting or encouraging returns of refugees to Iraq, but that it is prepared to assist those who decide freely or out of desperation, for whatever reason, to try to return to their homes.”
Human Rights First notes that the following highly relevant information was not included in the testimonies:
- First: On February 14, in the midst of a visit to the region, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres stated unequivocally that conditions are not appropriate for Iraqi refugees to return.
- Second: Only a small percent of refugees returned to Iraq from Syria last fall, and many of those became displaced yet again; since that time returns have subsided and violence has escalated.
- Third: Returns must be voluntary, and should only occur in conditions of safety and dignity.
- Fourth: The vast majority of UNHCR's work with refugees and IDPs - as reflected in its 2008 Iraq consolidated appeal for $265 million - focuses on meeting the immediate needs of Iraqis by providing humanitarian aid and protecting internally displaced Iraqis where they are currently living. Only a small portion of their funds are designated to assist Iraqis who decide or are forced to return home.