What do we owe Iraqi refugees?
Posted by Judy K. Warner on April 23, 2008
An op-ed piece in the Washington Times yesterday, A moral imperative, reports on an “Iraq Action Days” conference at George Washington University.
People representing nearly two dozen non-governmental-organizations detailed what is happening to 2.2 million refugees outside Iraq and 2.77 million displaced persons inside the country. These people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, and Congress must approve funding for key humanitarian assistance programs in the fiscal year 2008 supplemental budget.
… the lack of moral clarity has become a major issue threatening American national security interests. Let’s make no mistake — the refugees and their suffering will be used by both their government and regional powers to stoke anti-Americanism. That’s why the United States — if determined to succeed in the region — needs to be far more aggressive on how it uses its soft power.
But what does “soft power” mean? I would say that it should mean helping to take care of the refugees and ease their terrible conditions where they are, and trying to resettle them back in Iraq as fast as this can be done without creating more chaos, including helping settle property disputes and building new houses. But there’s another agenda. The article ends:
Finally, as it often does, some historical perspective sheds a little light on the situation. “As of March 31, 2008, 2,627 Iraqis have arrived in FY 2008,” the State Department reported last week. Since 2003, the United States has taken in roughly 6,000 Iraqis. In contrast, more than 131,000 Vietnamese had settled in the United States from May to December 1975, according to International Rescue Committee reports. We may not yet be at that threshold but the next president should get ready for accepting larger amounts of Iraqis for permanent settlement in the United States.
Our friend Chris Coen wrote a response, which the Washington Times published today, with which I agree:
Reconsider refugee resettlement
With 1.5 million refugees displaced from Iraq, it would be impossible to resettle any significant number in the United States. It also would be cost-prohibitive. Far more Iraqi refugees could be helped if we assisted them in the countries to which they already have been displaced, mainly Jordan, Syria and Lebanon (“A moral imperative,” Op-Ed, yesterday).
The nongovernmental organizations know this but keep lobbying for the admission of ever greater numbers of refugees into the United States because it is lucrative for them, not because it is in the best interests of the refugees.
Our group has found extensive neglect of refugees resettled to the United States by the NGOs. Rather than spending so much time and effort attempting to bring larger numbers of refugees to the United States, they should concentrate on taking care of those refugees they already are bringing to this country.
Friends of Refugees
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