Iraq + 4 more

Escaping mayhem and murder: Iraqi refugees in the Middle East

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) organized a delegation that traveled to Istanbul, Beirut, Amman and Damascus July 2 - 13, 2007, on a fact-finding mission concerning the more than two million Iraqis who have now fled their homeland and taken temporary refuge in surrounding countries. Its purpose was to see their situation first-hand, assess needs and service gaps, and make recommendations. The mission was led by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, and included representation from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) (see page 19 for names of delegation members).

More than two million Iraqis are now estimated to have sought safety in neighboring countries. When added to the two million Iraqis who have left their homes for other parts of Iraq and become displaced in their own country, the uprooted now comprise about 15 percent of Iraq's total population - a terrible if unintended consequence of the confl ict that began in 2003. The exodus continues. At the time of the delegation's visit, an estimated 50,000 people a month continued to stream across Iraq's borders, mostly to Syria. As of late August, the estimate was 60,000.

The patience and resources of the receiving countries are running out, and their doors are closing. Lebanon, Jordan and Syria already host, cumulatively, some 1.5 million Palestinians. When the current numbers of Iraqis are added to the Palestinians in Syria and Jordan, the two nations that have been most generous, these represent up to 10% of Syria's population and 24% of Jordan's.