US to take in more Iraqi refugees

State department gives the United Nations $18m to help re-settle displaced Iraqis.

    Growing violence in central Iraq has forced millions
    of Iraqis to flee [Reuters] 

    "The United States and the international community can best help displaced Iraqis by quelling the violence in Iraq," Paula Dobriansky, the US under-secretary of state said at a news conference with Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees.
     
    "At the same time, we have a responsibility to respond to the immediate needs of Iraqis who have fled violence and persecution," she said.
     
    'Brain drain'
     
    The US has accepted 466 Iraqi refugees since 2003, triggering congressional criticism that it had not done enough.
     
    The state department said last week that it had created a task force to ensure the country was doing "its share".
     
    However, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament said he feared the US move would amount to "a brain drain" and that once in America, they would not return easily.
     
    "We hope that our people will be hosted by Arab countries," al-Mashhadani said after meeting the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, for talks which focused on the flow of Iraqis to Syria.
     
    "When the reconstruction process begins, we can bring them back to their destroyed country to rebuild it," he said.
     
    More pressure
     
    The UNHCR estimates that up to 2 million Iraqis have moved to neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan, before and since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
     
    Laurent Jolles, the UNHCR respresentative in Damascus, told Al Jazeera: "[The huge number of refugees from Iraq] creates problems in the surrounding countries. A few months ago this was not known."
     
    He said this was putting even more pressure on neighbouring states, with overcrowding and crime becoming a problem, and parts of Damascus now populated entirely by Iraqi refugees.
     
    "What needs to be done is to look at resettlement as only a small part of how to address this. We need to look at how those Iraqis in Jordan and Syria can be supported, how the governments can be supported," he said.
     
    The United Nations says it needs $60 million to handle resettlement as it estimates 40 to 50 thousand people are fleeing their homes in Iraq every month.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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