UN says Iraqi refugees need more help

Iraq’s government and international community must give more funding and support to resettle Iraqi refugees displaced by sectarian bloodletting, the United Nation’s top official for refugees said Monday. Antonio Guterres spoke with reporters in the Jordanian capital at the end of a Mideast tour that included stops in Syria and Iraq. Some 2 million Iraqi refugees have been sheltered in neighboring countries since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Guterres said the current period presents a “moment of hope for Iraqi refugees,” because Syria and Jordan remain committed to helping refugees despite huge economic and social burdens that influx of Iraqis has placed on their own populations. But the international community needs to be “more engaged in supporting Iraqis and these host countries, which have paid such a high price for their generosity,” Guterres said. He did not give a specific figure for the financial aid needed. Jordan has said that hosting some 500,000 to 750,000 Iraqis has cost the kingdom $1.7 billion annually. Guterres also said more opportunities were needed for the Iraqis to resettle in other regions, mainly in North America, Europe and Australia. Last year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees referred 22,000 Iraqis for resettlement in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey. This year, Guterres said he expected his agency to refer at least the same number. The refugee agency’s first priority is to resettle widows with children, survivors who have lost many relatives and people who have suffered torture, he said. Guterres said the Iraqi government needed to be “more engaged with support to its citizens abroad and to the host countries.” A new UNHCR representative, based in Baghdad, will be appointed in the coming weeks, but the majority of the agency’s Iraq operations will still be headquartered in Amman, he said. AP

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