Tag: Iraq refugees

Another war on terror outrage: asylum denied

Did anyone else know about this additional outrageous consequence of the “war on terror”? You may have to be a subscriber to see this note from The Nation, September 20?

Deborah Amos’s Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East (PublicAffairs; $25.95) is a harrowing account of the pain and anguish suffered by the Iraqi Sunni diaspora in the Middle East. Especially perverse is a legal hurdle faced by exiles seeking asylum in the United States. Amos reports that Iraqis who have “paid ransom for the release of a loved one who had been kidnapped by a militia or criminal gang” have been barred from relocating to the United States by the Patriot Act, which considers “the paying of ransom in such cases—regardless of the circumstances—as constituting ‘material support’ for terrorists.” Iraq’s exiles have been left stranded by their putative liberators between a decimated past and a future not yet born.

I searched around and found an item from May in the NY Review of Books noting that Congress granted the State Department and DHS the right to waive the “material support” limit when it involved payments “under duress.” However, the authors claim that 1000s of potential refugees and asylum-seekers continue to be denied entry into the US because of anti-terror laws.

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Update: Caucasus Humanitarian Sit-Rep

Latest numbers on humanitarian needs in the region. International Medical Corps is now echoing the 30,000 estimate of refugees fleeing north to Russia from S. Ossetia, UNHCR’s estimates remain more conservative but have risen from 5,000 Saturday to between 10,000-20,000 today.

Like other agencies IMC is emphasizing its assistance efforts for “women and children.” This is troubling given what it suggests about a) the number of elderly who likely weren’t as easily able to flee urban areas before bombardment and b) the possibility that large numbers of adult civilian men are either missing from these populations or are simply being denied aid in a misplaced bid to protect the appearance of humanitarian “neutrality.”

Reliefweb is reporting that the International Committee of the Red Cross is emerging as the lead agency in the region, but their zone of access has been limited to N. Ossetia. Given that Russia now controls both North and South Ossetia, this raises questions about how serious Russia is about the “humanitarian” dimensions of the conflict for their own sake.

You can’t infer humanitarian ideals from their efforts north of the border: the “humanitarian catastrophe” (i.e. refugee crisis) there is propaganda fodder for Russia so it coincides with their interests. The litmus test is whether they will allow aid agencies access to civilians fleeing in the opposite direction or remaining in S. Ossetia even though

a) it may implicate them in war crimes if the ICRC determines that they’ve targeted civilians directly as they entered Georgia and

b) it means that Georgian civilians will receive the aid they need from the outside, rather than by putting pressure on Georgia’s own resources.

Under international humanitarian law, Russia is obligated to provide access to neutral agencies to all civilians in areas under their control.

The ICRC is also “working to gain access to people detained in connection with the conflict, including two Russian pilots who were wounded and are being held by the Georgian authorities.” No mention by the ICRC of allegations that the Russians have captured any Americans in connection with the fighting.

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Iraqi International Initiative

Today, I received an email asking me to endorse the Iraqi International Initiative for Refugees. Basically, the sponsors want to convince the UN to mandate that Iraqi oil revenues be shared with the 4.5 million refugees and displaced persons dispersed throughout the Middle East and the world. Many are living in poverty in neighboring states.

Here is their argument in a nutshell:

The international community, the occupation powers, and the government in Iraq are legally required to support and protect Iraqi refugees

Iraqi refugees are Iraqi citizens who have a full right to live in dignity, a right to benefit equally from national resources, and a right to return to their homes

The UN Security Council, as the highest body of the UN, has the power and legal duty to ensure that the needs of Iraqi refugees are met by passing a resolution to require that the Iraqi state allocate proportionate revenue to responsible agencies and hosting countries

The proposal is footnoted with references primarily to UN documents and NGO statements of various types.

These are their most important signatories to date:

Hans von Sponeck, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (1998-2000), Germany.
Denis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (1997-1998), Ireland.

I’m not sure those are sufficiently heavy hitters to garner the campaign the attention they seek.

Perhaps Charli has something to say about this transnational advocacy campaign? As this report by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children makes clear, “In any refugee crisis,the vast majority of the displaced are women and children;they are also the most vulnerable.”

In any case, between 15 to 20% of the population is living abroad or displaced, so this would be a significant policy. As I’ve previously noted, distribution of oil revenues is one of the sticky points that precludes Iraqi political reconciliation.

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