Senators say Bush ignoring Iraqi refugees

Several senators complained that President George W. Bush’s administration has not done enough to help the two million Iraqi refugees who have fled their war-torn country.

While many Iraqis have fled to Syria and Jordan, another 1.7 million have been displaced within Iraq, according to figures from the US State Department and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cited by the senators.

The senators said that the United States, which led the Iraq invasion in March 2003, has given refugee status to 466 refugees since the war began.

“Like other aspects of the war, we bear a heavy responsibility for their plight,” Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy said at a hearing of the Senate Judicary Committee.

“Our nation is spending eight billion dollars a month to wage the war in Iraq. Yet to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the refugees who have fled the war, the State Department plans to spend only 20 million dollars in the current fiscal year,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy and Republican colleague Arlen Specter asked the administration to fund UNHCR efforts and facilitate refugee status requests, particularly for Iraqis facing threats for working with US coalition forces.

Ellen Sauerbrey, the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, told the senators at the hearing that the refugees were a priority for her office.

“The administration shares your concern about the current situation facing Iraqi refugees, this issue is a top priority for my bureau,” Sauerbrey said.

“But refugees want to go home, they want to live safely in their home,” she added, saying that the best way to help Iraq’s refugees is to pacify their country rather than help them flee it.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse