According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 50,000 people leave Iraq every month seeking refuge. 1.8 million are internally displaced, and 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries.
The security situation in Iraq is catastrophic: every day 100 people are killed and many more injured as a result of kidnapping, murder and bomb attacks. Almost 4 million people are fleeing the intolerable humanitarian, economic and political conditions. Most find refuge in Jordan and Syria, while others end up in Iran, Lebanon and Egypt.
Stretched to the limit of their capacity, Iraq's neighbouring states are introducing stricter conditions of admission, making the situation of refugees even more precarious as they face the threat of being repatriated to Iraq. Access to healthcare and schooling for children is no longer guaranteed. In future, refugees will increasingly be obliged to rely on support and protection. Women are most at risk. Many turn to prostitution for the sake of their family's survival. Forced into criminality, they are exploited, fall victim to human traffickers, are shunned by the community, or even cast out by their families.
Switzerland has been drawing attention to the plight of the victims of the war in Iraq since 2003 and works with the UNHCR and local authorities to address the concerns and needs of refugees in Syria and Lebanon. In 2007 the SDC will cofund the UNHCR's programmes for food, medical care, housing and protection. In addition, the refugee agency will be able to call on the services of Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit experts. The SDC budget for refugees in Jordan and Syria is CHF 2.5 million. CHF 1.5 million is earmarked for programmes and projects in Iraq.