Tuesday, April 17, 2007

... forced migration update ...

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees convened a conference in Geneva today to address the growing humanitarian crisis of displaced Iraqis--now the largest displacement of people in the Middle East since the conflict triggered by the creation of Israel in 1948. With over 450 participants, including representatives of 60 nations and numerous aid organizations, the conference aims to shine a necessary spotlight . . . on a problem that has been overshadowed by politics for far too long. Of particular concern: Neighboring countries, who host the vast majority of refugees, are now closing their borders to Iraqis. Syria hosts an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis; Jordan, 750,000; Egypt, 100,000; Iran, 54,000; Lebanon, 40,000. (In contrast, the U.S., which has granted refugee status to fewer than 700 Iraqis since the war began, recently offered to resettle 7,000 Iraqis.) Iraqis lucky enough to gain entry into a neighbor state face increasingly restricted immigration status, limited legal rights, and exploitative work situations. In the words of High Commissioner António Guterres,
The humanitarian dimension of the problem can no longer be overlooked. Almost 4 million Iraqis are watching us today. Their needs are as obvious as the moral imperative to help. All of us – representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society – are now compelled to act.

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