Amnesty International14th June 2008
The displacement crisis caused by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent internal armed conflict has reached shocking proportions.
Millions of people at risk – Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Christians, Mandean-Sabeans, Palestinians and others – have fled their homes and most are now struggling to survive.
The crisis for Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced is one of tragic proportions. Despite this, the world’s governments have done little or nothing to help, failing both in their moral duty and in their legal obligation to share responsibility for displaced people wherever they are. Apathy towards the crisis has been the overwhelming response.
Governments have tried to promote a brighter interpretation of the situation in Iraq and the displacement crisis to justify their lack of response. Rhetoric, however, does not change reality. Reports of increased “voluntary returns” and of marginally improved security in Iraq have received worldwide media coverage, but this does not alter the true picture – a worsening refugee crisis exacerbated by the failure of the international community to respond in a meaningful way.
The reality is that the crisis for Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced is worsening and will remain a problem requiring international attention for years to come.Since the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s displacement crisis has steadily increased in size and complexity.Today, the number of displaced people is the highest ever – 4.7 million, according to estimates by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).1At the same time, the lack of effective response by the international community means that the ability of those fleeing Iraq to access protection outside the country is being increasingly thwarted. New visa restrictions imposed in neighbouring states mean that the ability of people to obtain refuge from the threat they face in Iraq now rests increasingly on their finances, rather than on their needs or rights under international refugee or human rights law.
As a result, more and more families have fled their homes but cannot leave Iraq – a staggering 2.77 million people are now estimated to be internally displaced.2For those lucky enough to access a territory outside Iraq, their situation is steadily worsening. In countries neighbouring Iraq and further afield, they are banned from working.
The need to pay rent, buy food and fund medical treatment, combined with the limited capacity of humanitarian agencies to meet these needs, is threatening the ability of millions of people to survive. Savings go only so far. Years on from their initial flight, many families are now destitute and facing impossible choices and new risks, including child labour, prostitution and the prospect of being forced through circumstances to undertake “voluntary” return to Iraq.As each month passes, more refugees need help with the basics to survive.
For example, some 120,000 people, 90 per cent of all registered refugees from Iraq in Syria, have been given food so far in 2008,3compared to 43,600 people, approximately 32 per cent of those registered,4at the end of 2007. Earlier in 2008, UNHCR anticipated that the number of people needing food will continue to rise, and predicted that it would be distributing food to around 300,000 people in Syria alone by the end of the year.However, UNHCR announced in May that by August 2008, due to inadequate funding for its Iraq Operation, it “will not be able to cover all basic health needs of Iraqis, and many serious and chronically ill Iraqis will not be able to receive their monthly medication.”5UNHCR also warned that current food aid for 150,000 refugees in Syria and Jordan could be reduced and that this would force many Iraqis “into further destitution and raise the likelihood of higher malnutrition rates and increased child labor.”6
As this shows, the level of support provided by the international community to date has been far from adequate. Some states have opted to give only general assistance for the development and reconstruction of Iraq, but they have failed to respond at all or adequately to the humanitarian needs of displaced Iraqis through targeted assistance.For some refugees, the difficulties they are facing in the host country is prompting them to make the difficult and dangerous decision to return to Iraq, either temporarily to collect a pension or other such reason, or more permanently because of their desperate situation – not because they feel they are no longer at risk of human rights abuses in Iraq.
The reality is that while there has been a slight improvement in security over the past year, Iraq is neither safe nor suitable for return. In fact, the security situation has deteriorated in recent months and Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world.Those with vested interests try to deny this reality.
The new Iraqi administration is attempting to prove its authority in the face of carnage and despair. The international community is trying to justify its reluctance to offer financial or technical assistance or resettlement opportunities in the face of a massive refugee crisis.Financial assistance to host countries and agencies working to support and protect refugees remains shamefully low. Almost no bilateral support from other states has been received by the principal host countries, and UN and international agencies desperately need additional funds to keep essential programmes running. Needs are at an all-time high, with increased impoverishment of refugees and the emergence of new and serious protection issues.
Yet the states shouldering most of the responsibility are still waiting for others to provide real help.Despite widespread outrage at the poor treatment of Iraqi asylum-seekers and refugees outside the region, the treatment of Iraqis seeking international protection has failed to improve.7In fact, it has taken a sharp turn for the worse. Coercive mechanisms, such as the withdrawal of assistance to propel people to return, as well as forcible return and the failure to recognize individuals as refugees, have become more widespread. More European countries are now deporting rejected asylum-seekers to Iraq, including Sweden which once stood as a positive example to its European neighbours.
Resettlement is a small but essential part of the response needed. Despite repeated calls for this option to be taken seriously, most states have ignored the calls and some of the most able to help have agreed only to minimal quotas. The UK, for example, a key player in the invasion that sparked the current refugee crisis, has an overall resettlement quota of 750, which includes places for Iraqis.
The authorities in Chile and Brazil, however, have made positive moves in their approach to resettlement that deserve to be commended.Amnesty International is greatly concerned that the failure to respond to this crisis will continue to erode the human rights protection for those forced to flee their homes in search of safety.
It urges the international community to recognize the nature, scale and urgency of the crisis at the highest political level and to make a true commitment to assisting Iraq’s displaced people by:· recognizing the immediate, but also the medium- to long-term nature of the crisis;· urgently and substantially raising sustainable financial assistance;· ending practices such as forcible returns that put lives at further risk;· ceasing practices that result in coerced “voluntary” returns;· allowing asylum-seekers and refugees to obtain paid employment; and· extensively increasing resettlement places.
Such support is desperately needed so that countries in the region of Iraq can more meaningfully meet their own responsibilities and not feel so saturated that they resort to repressive measures such as restricting entry and deporting terrified people.
Read more of Amnesty's report: ►
منظمة العفو الدولية 14 حزيران 2008
بلغت أزمة النـزوح التي تسبب بها غزو الولايات المتحدة للعراق، وما تلاه من نزاع مسلح داخلي، حدوداً تبعث على الصدمة. فقد فرَّ ملايين الأشخاص ممن تعرضوا للخطر – مسلمين سنة وشيعة، ومسيحيين، وصابئة منديين، وفلسطينيين، وسواهم – من ديارهم، ويصارع معظم هؤلاء الآن من أجل البقاء.وقد اتخذت أزمة اللاجئين والنازحين الداخليين العراقيين أبعاداً مأساوية. وعلى الرغم من ذلك، فإن حكومات دول العالم لم تفعل سوى القليل، وربما لا شيء يستحق الذكر، للمساعدة، حيث تخلت عن واجبها الأخلاقي، كما تخلت عن واجبها القانوني في تقاسم المسؤولية مع الآخرين حيال النازحين، حيثما كانوا.
الاعتراف بالطبيعة الفورية للأزمة، وكذلك بأبعادها على المدى المتوسط والطويل؛جمع المساعدات المالية المستدامة على نحو عاجل وبالقدْر الكافي؛وقف ممارسات الإعادة القسرية التي تعرض أرواح الناس لمزيد من الأخطار؛التوقف عن الممارسات التي تؤدي إلى العودة "الطوعية" تحت الضغط والإكراه؛السماح لطالبي اللجوء واللاجئين بالحصول على العمل المدفوع الأجر؛التوسع في برامج إعادة التوطين بصورة جوهرية