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IRAQ: Refugees could fuel regional instability, experts say
Stuck between the Iraqi and Syrian border, al-Tanf is now home to nearly 700 Palestinian refugees who fled violence in Iraq but were denied access to Syria.
BAGHDAD, 20 June 2008 (IRIN) - As World Refugee Day is marked on 20 June, Iraqi experts have been urging the government and international community to do more to help the large number of Iraqi refugees in the Middle East. [Read this report in Arabic]
“Day after day Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries are getting more frustrated by the harsh conditions in which they live. Sooner or later they are going to have a negative impact on the stability of the whole region,” said member of parliament (MP) Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, head of parliament’s Migration and Displacement Committee.
“Most of them are unemployed and deprived of health care and education, even though their country is oil-rich. This situation will lead them to lose faith in their country; they could become easy prey to organised criminal gangs in their host countries or terrorist groups,” Zankana told IRIN.
Zankana predicted the Iraqi refugee and displacement problem could take 8-10 years to resolve, given the security situation and the conflict in Iraq. He urged the government and the international community to adopt a comprehensive strategy to help the refugees return to their homes.Call for oil money to help refugees
Zankana called on the government to earmark 5 percent of the country’s increasing oil revenues to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees with food, medical care and education, “otherwise they will be lost and this will have a negative impact on their host communities”.
Iraqi oil revenues are higher than at any time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, with exports hitting a peak of 2.11 million barrels of oil per day (Financial Times, 17 June 2008). Daily production hit 2.5 million barrels a day last month, according to Oil Ministry figures.
At the same time over four million Iraqis are living in difficult conditions as IDPs (2.4 million) or refugees in foreign countries (2.2 million).
“We are talking about people who are growing up in wealthy environments but are stripped of the minimum benefits of life, and this, of course, will affect them psychologically,” Saad Naji Awni, a Baghdad-based psychologist, told IRIN.
He called for counselling programmes to be set up to help them overcome their frustrations and sense of insecurity which, he said, could reach “dangerous levels”. UNHCR report
Over the past year the number of refugees worldwide rose by 2.5 million to stand at 11.4 million, with Iraq and Afghanistan contributing most to these figures, according a 17 June 2008 report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
"In Iraq, with the sectarian divide and the lack of a comprehensive political solution, the number of internally displaced rose from 1.8 million at the start of the year to close to 2.4 million by the end of 2007," the report said.