Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, told the conference the problem had gone unnoticed for too long.
About 1 million Iraqis in Syria
750,000 have fled to Jordan
About 200,000 are in Egypt, Iran and Lebanon
1.9 million are displaced within Iraq
About 50,000 leave Iraq every month
The UNHCR estimates that around two million Iraqis have fled to neighbouring countries, including many who moved before 2003.
Most refugees have gone only as far as neighbouring Syria and Jordan, placing a strain on both countries by driving up the prices of housing and goods as well as stretching health care and other basic services.
About 750,000 Iraqis have increased Jordan’s 5.5 million population by 14 per cent and more than a million have fled to Syria.
“The chances of success [in Iraq] are essentially zero because the Iraqi people have no voice”
Non Sequitur, Cadiz, Spain
Mukhaimer Abu Jamous, secretary-general of Jordan’s interior ministry, told the conference Iraqi refugees were costing his government $1 billion a year.
“We hope that this important conference results in a clear and firm commitment by the international community to take part in shouldering the great burden placed on Jordan and other host countries,” he said.
About 50,000 people are still leaving Iraq every month, according to the UNHCR.
Reem Haddad, from the Syrian ministry for information, told Al Jazeera: “The number of Iraqi refugees in Syria amounts to about six per cent of Syrian population … If they had not seen Syria as a sanctuary they wouldn’t have come here.”
Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, said that the refugee problem threatens to spread across the whole of the Middle East unless action is taken.
|“The United States and
the United Kingdom bear
a particular responsibility to help people displaced in and out of Iraq”
Human Rights Watch
The group called on governments to set up generous resettlement programmes that “should go far beyond token numbers and should constitute a significant part of the solution to the current crisis”.
Washington has said it will allow about 7,000 Iraqis into the United States this year – up from only 202 in 2006 – and will contribute more to help Iraq’s neighbours cope with the situation.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, said in a statement that the US and Britain generated the conflict in Iraq must now help the fleeing Iraqis.
“The United States and the United Kingdom bear a particular responsibility to help people displaced in and out of Iraq,” Bill Frelick, refugee director at HRW, said.
“They undertook a war that has directly caused thousands of deaths, widespread fear and suffering, and forced displacement.”
UNHCR has said it wants to resettle permanently 20,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees by the end of the year.