Since the beginning of the conflict in Iraq, the security situation has continued to deteriorate, and is now displacing millions of Iraqis. As the conflict in Iraq is now aggravated by religious and ethnic tensions, entire communities are being forced to leave their homes for fear of persecution. The UN has estimated 100,000 Iraqis are now fleeing their homes every month. RI is particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation of displaced Iraqis who do not have the legal right to remain in the countries to which they have fled. RI is also concerned about the fate of religious minorities and other vulnerable groups, such as Palestinians, women at risk and unaccompanied minors.
During October and November 2006, RI conducted a first mission to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan -- the three largest host countries for Iraqis -- to examine the conditions faced by Iraqi refugees and to assess the ability of those nations to provide an adequate response to the refugee crisis. RI found that these countries are becoming increasingly strained by the growing number of Iraqi refugees. Syria and Jordan have now begun to close their borders and place tighter restrictions on the incoming Iraqis. In February and March 2007, RI went to Northern Iraq and Egypt, and found that displaced Iraqis faced similar issues there. RI has urged the international community to do more to help support these countries and to facilitate the resettlement of displaced Iraqis elsewhere.
The current mission will assess any progress that UNHCR and other agencies have made in assisting Iraqis throughout the region in the last few months and follow up on our previous work. RI will examine how well the UN, international aid agencies and the governments of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon have been able to assist displaced Iraqis. RI will also look at any factors that may be constraining or hampering the missions of these institutions.