Urgent Help Needed for Iraqi Refugees
The exact number of refugees who have fled to Syria and Jordan is not clear, but estimates are as high as two million—creating a massive strain on two countries that struggle to provide adequate services for their own populations.
“The majority of the refugees are impoverished Iraqis who had little means to begin with or who lost everything during the war,” says Gillian Dunn, who took part in the IRC’s emergency mission. “Now they are uprooted and struggling to survive.”
“Many other refugees were middle-class Iraqis who no longer have an income,” she adds. “Their savings are dwindling and they find themselves teetering towards poverty.”
Most of the refugees are stuffed into small shabby rented rooms in poor urban neighborhoods. These scattered spaces are sparsely furnished and the destitute have next to no basic supplies. Most of the refugees barely scrape by with menial jobs that earn meager sums. The situation is particularly alarming in Jordan, where the refugees are denied access to public services, including health care and education.
"All of this is in addition to the psychological impact of being forced from their homes, losing loved ones, seeing the collapse of their businesses, witnessing or being victims of horrendous violence and facing a very uncertain future,” says Dunn.
The International Rescue Committee is dispatching a team to Jordan that will begin delivering emergency supplies to needy refugees and the communities hosting them. The team will also start recreational and learning activities for out-of-school refugee children and youth with a view toward expanding these and other programs to displaced Iraqis in Jordan and elsewhere in the region.
In the meantime, the IRC is urging the United States and Europe to accept and resettle vulnerable Iraqi refugees.
“With violence spiraling out of control in Iraq, safe repatriation is not a viable option for the foreseeable future and neither Syria nor Jordan have the will or resources to integrate the refugees,” says IRC vice president of refugee resettlement, Bob Carey, who took part in the assessment.
“The U.S government’s plan to resettle 7,000 Iraqi refugees is a small step in the right direction,” Carey says. “But that number is disproportionately low in comparison to the amount of at-risk Iraqi refugees who have already fled to countries in the region and the thousands more who continue to flee Iraq each month.”