The displacement of Iraqis from Iraq is now the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world.Well, we certainly don't want any illegal immigrants in America, now, do we? Why, that'd be...illegal! And immoral? Well, maybe...as long as we don't ask why they are immigrants in the first place.
The UN estimates that 2.3 million Iraqis have fled violence in their country; 1.8 million have fled to surrounding countries, while some 500,000 have vacated their homes for safer areas within Iraq. An estimated 40,000 people are leaving Iraq every month for Syria alone. Other countries through out the Middle East, including Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran and Turkey are also seeing increased flows. Most Iraqis are determined to be resettled to Europe or North America, and few consider return to Iraq an option. With no legal work options in their current host countries, Iraqis are already exploring the use of false documents to migrate to Western nations.
“Iraqis who are unable to flee the country are now in a queue, waiting their turn to die,” is how one Iraqi journalist summarizes conditions in Iraq today. While the US debates whether a civil war is raging in Iraq, thousands of Iraqis face the possibility of death every day all over the country. Refugees International met with dozens of Iraqis who have fled the violence and sought refuge in neighboring countries. All of them, whether Sunni, Shi’a, Christian or Palestinian, had been directly victimized by armed actors. People are targeted because of religious affiliation, economic status, and profession – many, such as doctors, teachers, and even hairdressers, are viewed as being “anti-Islamic.” All of them fled Iraq because they had genuine and credible fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.So here's the moral question, all over again: we broke it; did we buy it? An e-mail read on BBC Worldservice this morning said the US voters re-elected Bush, so we are responsible for the mess in Iraq, and if that means we need to have a draft in order to have enough soldiers to send over there to stabilize the country, so be it. It is our moral duty, now, to sacrifice whatever it takes to restore order to that country.
Assuming, of course, that even more American soldiers in Iraq will restore order. The question of moral responsibility, however, is clear. We are responsible for the situation in Iraq; we kicked over their ant-hill. Introduce so much chaos into any situation, when you have no real intention of colonizing or otherwise occupying the country, and this kind of chaos is inevitable (which is not to say control of the country by an occupier was ever possible, but we never really tried that, because even Rumsfeld didn't want to pay that price). So, now what? Now we've created a refugee crisis. Listen to the interview with Sean Garcia at Democracy Now! We may not know much about war in this country, but we've had recent experience with refugees, with people forced to flee due to government incompetence and ineptitude. But there is no Astrodome in the Middle East for people to flee to, no Houston that can absorb hundreds of thousands of persons, no larger country that can disperse the suddenly homeless to new homes and shelters.
Dramatically short of funds and staff in all three countries, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees can’t provide adequate protection and assistance to Iraqis. The agency lacks the resources to process refugees’ documentation adequately. Without staff to monitor borders, UNHCR depends on national governments for updated information on new arrivals. UNHCR is also unable to provide significant assistance to Iraqis, and receives very little support from other UN agencies that do not seem to acknowledge the extent of the crisis. The fact that Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are not state parties to the 1951 Refugees Convention further reduces UNHCR’s ability to protect refugees.Same song, second verse; but this is in another country, and besides, the wench is dead. Just don't expect to hear any mention of this subject tonight, or any acknowledgement of national responsibility anytime soon.
The United States must begin by acknowledging that violence in Iraq has made civilian life untenable, creating a refugee crisis that is essentially exporting the nation’s instability to neighboring countries. To deal with this crisis, Refugees International proposes the following:
1. Given its central role in Iraq, the US should lead an international initiative to support Middle Eastern countries hosting Iraqi civilians. The US should recognize and support the constructive role Syria is playing in hosting Iraqi refugees and help it keep its borders open.
2. Donors must significantly increase their support to UNHCR and other UN agencies must participate in the relief efforts for Iraqi refugees.
3. Western countries, including the US, must agree to resettle particularly vulnerable groups, without prejudice to their right to return to their country as recognized under international law.