U.S. Resettles 974 Iraqi Refugees in April; Improvement Welcome but Comprehensive Response Still Needed
The April resettlement numbers for Iraqi refugees have just been released. The United States resettled 974 Iraqi refugees this month, bringing the total number of Iraqis resettled this fiscal year to 3,601. 974 is the highest number of Iraqis admitted in a single month since the United States publicly committed to resettling recently displaced Iraqis in February 2007.
“For more than a year, while the UN refugee agency has worked to identify tens of thousands of vulnerable Iraqis for resettlement, the U.S. has been slow to bring these Iraqis to refuge, and has failed to meet even its own modest goals,” said Amelia Templeton, refugee advocate at Human Rights First. “However, in the past several months, the U.S. has steadily increased its admissions of Iraqi refugees. If the pipeline continues to improve, the U.S. could put itself on track to meet its goals and could begin to catch up to UN referrals.”
More than 2 million Iraqis have fled to Syria and Jordan and more than 2.7 million are displaced within Iraq’s borders. Human Rights First remains concerned that the U.S. has failed to lead a comprehensive response to the crisis. “The U.S. resettlement target of 12,000 for fiscal year 2008 is itself far too low, given the scope of the crisis, the extreme vulnerability of many displaced Iraqi families, and the particular responsibility of the U.S.,” said Ms. Templeton. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees focuses its referrals on refugees in immediate need, including members of religious and ethnic minorities, survivors of torture, and vulnerable women.
Human Rights First is also concerned that the United States and other international donors have failed to provide funding for key humanitarian assistance for refugees and IDPs. The UN’s Consolidated Appeal for humanitarian projects inside of Iraq is currently funded at only 20 percent, and the International Organization for Migration and the UNHCR also face severe funding shortfalls. “We welcome recent signs of progress in the resettlement effort,” said Eleanor Acer, director of the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First. “But we’re still waiting for the United States to come up with a comprehensive plan.”