Iraqi Refugees Now Top Asylum Seekers In The World

| Fri Mar. 23, 2007 1:44 PM EDT

How much longer can the U.S. deny the refugee crisis in Iraq? According to a new U.N. report, Iraqi refugees are now the top asylum seekers anywhere.

Asylum applications by Iraqis in industrialized countries rose 77 percent last year, from 12,500 in 2005 to 22,200 in 2006. UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said "There has been an abject denial of the impact, the humanitarian impact, of the war, the huge displacement within Iraq of up to 1.9 million people who are homeless because of the war."

As Leigh wrote earlier this week, Syria has taken a huge portion of Iraqi refugees (some 1.2 million in a country of 19 million) while the United States has so far taken in less than 500 with promises of allowing 7,000 this year. Many of these refugees are Iraqi's who worked for the United States and are now under death threat, as David Case writes in our current issue.

Over at Foreign Policy in Focus, Kristele Younes of Refugees International outlines a number of proposals to help Iraqi refugees, including more funding for the UNHCR (whose budget for dealing with Iraqi refugees is 22 million, less than $7 per refugee) and more international cooperation to address the crisis.

Yet the crux of her argument is this:

The United States must begin by acknowledging that violence in Iraq has made civilian life untenable, creating a refugee crisis that is essentially exporting the nation's instability to neighboring countries.

"Exporting the nation's instability." So in four years the US has managed a war that has not only led to more terrorist attacks worldwide, but has also made for a more volatile region overall.

No one, and I mean no one, is shouting 'four more years' now.

—Amaya Rivera