Australia Urged To Help Iraqi Refugees

Australia urged to help Iraqi refugees

Andra Jackson
The Age (Melbourne)
September 25, 2007

AUSTRALIA has a moral obligation to increase its intake of Iraqi refugees, who now pose “the fastest-growing displacement crisis in the world”, according to Amnesty International.

It warned of a “spiralling humanitarian crisis” caused by the flood of refugees from Iraq to neighbouring Jordan and Syria.

“The extreme violence and instability propelling people to flee Iraq has resulted in the largest population movement in the Middle East since Palestinians were displaced following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948,” it said in a report released yesterday.

Approximately 4.2 million Iraqis are estimated to have been displaced 2.2 million within Iraq and over 2 million outside.

The 1.4 million Iraqi refugees in Syria make up 7 per cent of its population, while the estimated 500,000-750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan form 10 per cent of its population. Amnesty warned that this influx threatens the political, economic and social stability of these countries.

The report Millions in Crisis: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis documents how Jordan has already deported refugees back to Iraq. It highlights an account of one group of Shiite refugees who were beheaded on their return in December last year.

“The response of many in the international community, including states that participated in the US-led invasion and can be considered to have a particular obligation to address the humanitarian effects of their military action, has been inadequate,” the report said.

Amnesty noted this year that the Australian Government announced it would provide approximately $A5.75 million to support Iraqi refugees and $A21.5 million towards the reconstruction of Iraq.

Over the last five years, Australia has taken in 2000 Iraqi refugees. Amnesty called for this figure to be increased.

Deakin University's Arabic studies lecturer and research assistant Yousef Alreemawi said he noticed on his first visit to Jordan in four years in March that: ” I really felt the difference in prices and rents, pretty much everything. I would say mainly the burden of the Iraqi refugees have put a burden on the already limited resources of Jordan and Syria.

“The current (Jordanian) Government is a little bit concerned about the political contribution of the Iraqi refugees long-term.

“Australia is obligated to accept refugees in general, but I think Iraqi refugees should be given special consideration because it would be a naive decision for Australia to just go and contribute to the war and not take the other consequences, like the refugees, into account.”

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said Australia plans to lift the number of places going to Iraqis within its annual 13,000 humanitarian intake from 28 per cent to 35 per cent.