Iraq’s refugees unnoticed, unwanted

For more than 27 years, Iraqis have been living in a country of incessant wars – from the Iran-Iraq war in 1980-88, followed by the Gulf War in 1991, to the ‘War on Terror’ that began in 2003 and continues today.

Each month there are an estimated 60,000 Iraqis who flee the country.

The 2 million that have fled Iraq are the lucky ones, having already been accepted into neighboring countries, such as Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. The unlucky Iraqis are those stranded at borders living in unbearable conditions, such as tents with no electricity.

According to the United Nations’ Assistance Mission to Iraq, at least 47 percent of the Iraqis whom are stranded at borders have no access to official food distribution channels.

So what is delaying the U.N. from acting upon the crisis?

James Zogby, head of the Arab-American Institute, blames the crisis of Iraqi refugees on the Bush Administration.

"The tie-up is Homeland Security and vetting," Zogby said. "They’re arguing that (Iraqis) working for the U.S. is one thing, trusting them over here is another."

The largest Iraqi refugee community is in Syria, with more than 1.2 million residing mainly in Damascus. Amman, Jordan, holds a total of 500,000 refugees who mostly come from Iraq’s working class. Iraqis fleeing to Lebanon are likely to be jailed; only 20,000 have been accepted.

None of these three countries are party to the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, which stipulates the rights of refugees and the legal obligations states hold on the matter of refugees.

All three countries have strained relations with Iraqi communities because of this.

The occupation of Iraq, however, was not the making of Syria, Lebanon or Jordan, but of the U.S. If anyone should deal with the crisis, it must be our responsibility.

Perhaps, as Zogby implied, the U.S. is not ready to have more Arabs living among them.

In February, the Bush Administration announced that up to 7,000 Iraqi refugees would be allowed to enter the country this year. Of the 7,000 that applied, many of them worked with the U.S. military or American companies. But the State Department revealed how many Iraqi refugees were allowed into the U.S. during the month of May. That count stands at precisely one. In April, the U.S. again admitted only a single Iraqi refugee.

When you have a president who constantly preaches of democracy and liberation, the least he can do is find a home for the people whose homes he destroyed.

Hammad, a communication junior, can be reached via [email protected]

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