Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
The International Organization for Migration, an inter-governmental group, reports today that they estimate 1 million Iraqis will flee the country in 2007. The situation in Iraq and for its citizens, a spokesperson for the group said, is not improving. This would be a drastic increase over the 2 million refugees who have fled over a four year period since the beginning of the war in 2003. 1.8 million more have fled their homes to safer areas within the country.
The concern is that four years after the U.S. invasion in March, this number should be getter smaller, not bigger. The Iraqi refugee situation, which some fear could be worse than Darfur, is grave, as I have written about before, because relocation options for refugees are limited. Jordan has closed its doors and increasingly, the country has become more and more unfriendly to Iraqis, especially Shiites. There is talk that Syria will close its borders soon as well.
The announcement, by IOM, comes in the wake of a decision by the Bush administration to allow 7,000 Iraqi refugees to seek asylum in the U.S. Under pressure from Syria, who blames "Washington for the 'humanitarian catastrophe' involving Iraqi refugees," the administration made this small concession. (The U.S. has only allowed 500 refugees into the country in the past four years.)
The Jordanian government is not impressed. A spokesperson for the government noted that 7,000 is just one percent of the number of refugees Jordan has accommodated. Syria has taken in 1 million. The United Nations excuses the U.S.'s "miserly" asylum quota by claiming that most refugees would like to return to Iraq and aren't interested in a home in the U.S. This is bunk on so many levels. Yes, of course, Iraqis would ultimately like to go home, but their native country is unsafe for them and so most of them are willing, I'm sure, to consider a second choice. And more importantly, many Iraqis do want asylum in the U.S. In fact, 100,000 Iraqi Christians are reported to have expressed interest in resettling in the U.S.