Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post today:
Despite U.S. pressure over the past month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has yet to provide significant financial support for the nearly 2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Lebanon, according to administration and congressional sources, even as the United Nations has told donors that it may scale back its assistance to the effort because of insufficient funds.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — whose programs for Iraqi refugees and displaced people are projected to cost over $800 million this year, according to the State Department — informed a meeting of donor nations last week that it may need to slash support for Iraqis in Syria and Jordan because the agency has received only 60 percent of the funds it needs to help Iraqi refugees the rest of this year.
Last month, State Department officials told Congress that many countries have held back funds for refugees because the Iraqi government has delivered only $15 million to Syria, where there are about 1 million refugees, and $2 million to Lebanon, where there are 200,000; and it has pledged $8 million to Jordan, where there are some 500,000. Ambassador James B. Foley, the State Department coordinator for Iraq refugees, said at the time that the United States would press the Maliki government to increase its support.
The Bush administration has provided $200 million to the UNHCR for the Iraqi refugees. Congress is trying to add more funds, and “has also pressed the Maliki government to provide more.”
Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) and a bipartisan group of colleagues wrote Maliki last month requesting that he use $1 billion in oil revenue to support the refugees and those displaced within Iraq’s borders. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) also wrote Maliki last month with a similar request.
Delahunt and others on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are trying to add another $675 million for refugees — some $454 million above the president’s request — to the emergency supplemental bill pending before Congress.
I posted on the Iraqi government’s failure to care for its internal refugees (IDPs — internally displaced persons) a few days ago. Some Iraqi legislators are upset about it. Prime Minister Malaki’s government has not been able to spend the tens of billions of dollars it has at its disposal, for reasons that are not clear to me. It’s not just the refugees, it seems to be every area that they should be attending to. I’d like to know why. Getting the Iraqi government to assume its responsibilities — for its refugees and for everything else — seems like a more important priority than pushing other countries to take the refugees who should be going home.