Kelly O'Donnell and Kathleen Newland, both of the Migration Policy Institute, have just released a new report on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. The facts and figures are grim:
► Between September and December 2007, over 45,000 Iraqis returned from Syria to Iraq. Almost 70 percent returned not because of improved security, but because they could not afford to live in Syria, as they faced stricter visa policies and difficulty finding work.
► As reported here, Syria introduced visa restrictions for Iraqis in October 2007. Prior to these restrictions, an estimated 2,000 Iraqis entered Syria each day. Jordan closed its borders in 2005, and Saudi Arabia is building a 560-mile border fence with Iraq to keep out undocumented immigrants. In Lebanon, Iraqis have no legal status; the government detains them indefinitely until they agree to return to Iraq.
► Of an estimated 2.2 million externally displaced, only 5,000 Iraqis had been resettled in third countries by December 2007. Although the United States allocated space for 7,000 Iraqi refugees and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) referred over 10,000 Iraqis to the U.S., only 1,608 Iraqis were resettled to the United States during fiscal year 2007.
► Iraqi asylum claims in the 36 industrialized countries that report data to UNHCR more than doubled in the first six months of 2007 compared to the first six months of 2006.
► UNHCR estimates that 60,000 Iraqis per month, or just over 80 people each hour, are being displaced within Iraq.
► Due to restrictions on internal movement within Iraq, many of the 2.3 million internally displaced are forced to return to neighborhoods plagued by the sectarian violence they were trying to flee. Former employees of the US government are particularly at risk. (photo credits here and here)
In the words of Newland (right) and O'Donnell, "the international response to the humanitarian crisis resulting from the war in Iraq is, thus far, wholly inadequate . . . [U]rgent action, beginning today, is needed to build toward an enduring, comprehensive solution . ..."