Thursday, September 2, 2010

President Obama Dodges Long Term Responsibility to Refugees in Historic Speech

Refugees International Statement:

Washington, D.C. -- Refugees International today expressed disappointment that President Barack Obama failed to recognize the plight of Iraqi refugees during his speech marking the end of combat operations in Iraq. In his address to the nation last night, on August 31, President Barack Obama failed to take the opportunity to highlight the humanitarian plight of the Iraqi people. For the half a million refugees unable to return home, and the one and a half million Iraqis displaced inside the country, the end of U.S. operations in Iraq does not mean that peace has returned. Their original homes and communities are either destroyed or insecure, and they remain in a dangerous and unsettled limbo.

"The Obama administration has provided funding and resettlement opportunities for Iraqis. But resolving the displacement issue is a long-term project, requiring U.S. funding and engagement and commitments from the Iraqi government to give them the help they need. In last night's speech, humanitarian issues were not given the priority they deserve." said the Vice President of Refugees International, Joel Charny.

As America ends it combat mission, the humanitarian needs in Iraq persist. Many Iraqis are living in slums, and are completely dependent on the United Nations and other agencies to provide water and food. Politically, Iraq has failed to form a government, and violence in the country continues.

"Refugees International welcomes the engagement of civilians in government, but the reality of the security situation means that people don't walk freely on the streets, and, outside the Green Zone, there is limited access to give civilians the help they need," said Charny. "Humanitarian agencies need to work with local non-governmental organizations, and also make their security rules more flexible, so they are able to move quickly to gain access to Iraq's most vulnerable."