Posted by Judy K. Warner on April 15, 2008
Walter Pincus has a very informative article in the Washington Post today, on a report from Refugees International about the Iraqi refugees. Its inadequate headline is “Iraqi Militias Offering Aid to Displaced.” It begins:
The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has provided little financial assistance to the more than 2 million Iraqis who have fled the country’s sectarian violence, has also failed to support millions more internally displaced persons who are instead being aided by militias, according to a report by Refugees International due for release today.
Our ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, says government officials are suspicious of the religious and political allegiances of the refugees. Further,
“They are suspicious of the statistics and think they are being inflated by host governments and NGOs so they can get more money from Iraq and the United States,” Crocker told Washington Post reporters and editors last week. Crocker also said Iraqi officials have questioned whether all the individuals qualify as refugees, saying that many of those who fled the country for Jordan, Syria and elsewhere “were opposed to the new order.”
The Iraqi officials are more savvy than the NGOs, that’s for sure. I hope the reason the refugee flow is slower than planned into the U.S. is that our Homeland Security officials are determining just that — which refugees fled because they supported Saddam Hussein and which ones did not (in addition to determining ties to terrorist groups). Here are some important numbers:
The United States has provided more than $480 million to assist refugees and internally displaced Iraqis, and plans to add $280 million more this year. The Maliki government so far has granted $15 million to Syria, which has said it is home to nearly 1.5 million refugees from Iraq; $2 million to Lebanon, which has around 30,000 Iraqi refugees; and is still negotiating how to deliver $8 million to Jordan, which hosts 400,000 to 500,000 refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
James Foley, the State Department’s coordinator for Iraqi refugees, said some other countries are not providing aid because they think the Iraqi government isn’t providing enough even though they have the money.
The Shiite movement of Moqtada al Sadr has stepped into the gap and has become “Iraq’s largest ‘humanitarian’ organization,” the Refugees International report says.
It said that Sadr’s group “‘resettles’ displaced Iraqis free of charge in homes that belonged to Sunnis.” It said Sunni militias “play a similar role with displaced and needy Sunnis.”
This stands to reason. Unless millions of homes were destroyed, there are bound to be a lot of empty houses left by fleeing refugees. There has been a process of segregation going on, with neighborhoods becoming mostly Shia or mostly Sunni. It sounds like the militias are helping this along and getting refugees resettled. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad that Shia and Sunni are separating themselves out, but the militias seem to be more competent than the government at getting refugees connected with empty houses. I wonder if there is a way for them to resettle some of the people who have left and want to come back.
It is a great thing to see an article on the Iraqi refugees that goes farther than bemoaning the low numbers that the United States’ has brought in and actually provides us with excellent information.
The full report from Refugees International can be downloaded from this site.