For Immediate Release: September 12, 2008
Human Rights First welcomes today’s announcement from the State Department that the United States has achieved its target of resettling 12,000 Iraqi refugees in FY 2008.
But we are disappointed in the low admissions floor set for FY 2009 – just 17,000 Iraqi refugees. Four million Iraqis have been displaced since 2003 – more than 2 million have fled the country, and nearly 2 million are internally displaced inside Iraq. “The number of Iraqi refugees we have welcomed to our shores is still just a fraction of those in need,” says Amelia Templeton, refugee analyst at HRF. “The U.S. can and should do better.”
The UN refugee agency estimates that 85,000 Iraqi refugees – from the most vulnerable groups – will need resettlement in 2009. “The plight of Iraq’s refugees is increasingly dire as food prices increase, savings are depleted, and refugees in exile struggle to feed and support their children,” Templeton noted.
Over the past year the United States has invested in the staff and infrastructure to process Iraqi refugees in the region. In recent months, the U.S. has resettled more than 2,000 refugees per month. The pipeline is finally in place. “We recognize the security and logistical challenges the U.S. refugee admissions program and its partners face daily in the region, but the need remains enormous,” says Templeton. “The United States should revise its goal upward, and set a new target to resettle at least 30,000 Iraqi refugees in FY 2009.” The State Department emphasizes that 17,000 is a floor, not a ceiling. Nevertheless, adds Templeton, “We must show a greater leadership role in addressing this grave humanitarian crisis by extending refuge to those who have fled from persecution and harm in Iraq.”