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'Global apathy' to Iraqi refugees

  • Story Highlights
  • Amnesty International says the response to the Iraqi refugee crisis is inadequate
  • Describes "the world's fastest growing displacement crisis" as "largely ignored"
  • U.N. says 4.2M displaced Iraqis, of who 2 M-plus are outside the country
  • Report also says that Syria, Jordan are shouldering too much of the problem
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(CNN) -- Countries across the world are inadequately responding to the Iraqi refugee crisis, a human rights group said in a report Monday.

Cars wait at the border with Syria, now home to some of the 2 million-plus Iraqi refugees worldwide.

The Amnesty International report, "Millions in flight: the Iraqi refugee crisis," also said that Syria and Jordan are shouldering too much of the burden in meeting the needs of the refugees.

The human rights group described what it calls "the world's fastest growing displacement crisis" -- the flight of people from their homes in war-torn Iraq.

"The desperate humanitarian situation of displaced Iraqis, including refugees and those who remain within Iraq, has been largely ignored by the world," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International in a press statement.

"A deepening humanitarian crisis and greater political instability across the wider region are looming, unless the international community meets its obligation to shoulder a fair share of the responsibility for protecting and assisting Iraqi refugees."

The group, citing U.N. figures, said there are 4.2 million displaced Iraqis -- 2.2 million internally displaced in Iraq and more than 2 million refugees.

Of the 2.2 million plus refugees, 1.4 million are in Syria and about a half million to three-quarters of a million in Jordan.

It is considered the worst refugee crisis in the Middle East since the population changes that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The report urged countries, "in particular those who have participated in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to assist Jordan and Syria" on several levels. It called for more financial and technical aid for health and schooling and "urgent steps to develop more generous refugee programs."

It called for governments to "cease practices that further call the safety of Iraqis into question such as forcibly returning rejected asylum seekers to Iraq, cutting off assistance to those denied asylum and even revoking the refugee status of some Iraqis."

The group said the burdens on Syria and Jordan have been great and noted that the two countries are "tightening border controls" and "cutting off the main escape routes for people fleeing from sectarian and other violence in Iraq."

"We are very concerned that the new visa requirements being introduced by Syria and Jordan will prevent Iraqis receiving the protection they need," Smart said. "We urge both governments to keep their borders open to those fleeing for their lives.

"However, other states must do more to assist these two countries by providing increased financial, technical and in-kind bilateral assistance to enable them to meet the health, schooling and other needs of the refugees, and by accepting greater number of especially vulnerable refugees for resettlement."

Smart called the actions taken by the international community as "modest."

"Moreover, some states are taking negative measures, such as forcibly returning rejected asylum seekers to Iraq, cutting off assistance to those denied asylum and even revoking the refugee status of some Iraqis."

The report also criticized what it calls the "slow pace of resettlement of those considered most vulnerable among the Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria, including victims of torture and other grave abuses." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About SyriaAmnesty InternationalUnited Nations Refugee AgencyIraq

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