Each month, 60,000 Iraqis are forced to leave their homes due to continuing violence, according to a Sept. 2007 report by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Since 2003, when the U.S. occupation of Iraq began, 2.2 million Iraqis have been internally displaced, 1.4 million have escaped to Syria, and another million are dispersed throughout Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey, the report states.
However, Iraqis are encountering difficulties obtaining legal work, health services, and access to education. They are also overwhelming the basic infrastructures of the host countries, causing poverty levels to rise. Syria, which ended its “open-door” policy to Iraqis in October because of the economic strain, asked the UNHCR for financial assistance at the international donors’ conference in April. Although the UNHCR granted $152 million for Iraqi refugee assistance in 2007, this only amounted to about $30 per person.
“U.N. agencies have offered support, and they are asking donor countries to do more,” Maher Al-Husami, a Syrian minister of health, told the al-Jazeera television network. U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) claims the U.S. needs to do more to resettle the 12,000 Iraqi refugees promised during the 2008 fiscal year. In a statement released after her January trip to the Middle East, Norton described the U.S. effort as “virtually non-operational, and considerably below that of our allies.”