Washington, DC - Refugees International praised Congress today for taking a first step in increasing the number of Iraqis who can resettle in the U.S. Passage of H.R. 1790 by the House of Representatives to amend the National Defense Authorization Act will increase the number of Iraqi and Afghani translators who can be resettled in the U.S. from 50 to 500. The bill, introduced by Representative Fortenberry (R-NE), was passed this afternoon by a vote of 412 to 8. The Senate passed similar legislation (S. 1104) introduced by Senator Lugar (R-IN) in April.
"We applaud Congress for recognizing the moral obligation the U.S. has to assist translators who have helped the war effort in Iraq," said Refugees International Advocate Sean Garcia. "However, this is only one small sector of Iraqis amongst thousands of people who have risked their lives in helping us - many more are still trapped in Iraq, and are being threatened for collaborating with the U.S."
Over two million Iraqis are currently refugees throughout the Middle East, and an additional two million are internally displaced inside Iraq. The United Nations has committed to referring 20,000 refugees worldwide for resettlement in 2007. Despite this target, the U.S. has only resettled 69 Iraqis since October 2006 - and will likely fall short of its commitment to resettle 7,000 Iraqis by October 1 of this year.
Refugees International supports broader legislation, known as the Responsibility to Iraqi Refugees Act (H.R. 2265), introduced by Representative Blumenauer (D-OR) , that would further expand the number of Iraqis eligible for resettlement in the U.S. It would also increase much needed assistance to refugees in the Middle East who are not eligible for resettlement.
"As an occupying power, the United States has a responsibility to provide for the safety of Iraqi citizens," said Refugees International President Ken Bacon. "Until we can guarantee Iraqis safety within their own country, we have a responsibility to protect them after they have fled danger, whether it be through resettlement, or through assistance to countries providing them safe haven,"
Refugees International has taken the lead in advocating for solutions to the Iraqi refugee crisis and will be launching a third mission to the region in June to assess the needs of refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that uses advocacy to generate lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection for displaced people around the world and works to end the conditions that create displacement. Read our most recent recommendations at http://www.refugeesinternational.org/iraq.
Contact: Megan Fowler, 202-828-0110 x214, firstname.lastname@example.org