As the US draws down troops in Iraq, it may give the impression that the Iraqi refugee crisis has come to an end. But the estimated two million Iraqis who remain displaced by the war and its aftermath do not yet have the option of going home.
The war in Iraq and the subsequent sectarian violence forced thousands of Iraqis to flee for their lives. Unable to return home, they are refugees in several Mideast nations, often living in poverty and despair. Many of these people assisted the US in its efforts in Iraq. Now, as the US draws down military forces, thousands of Iraqis who worked with us are being laid off and may find themselves at risk. Unrest in the Middle East is exacerbating an already tenuous situation, as many Iraqis find themselves forced to flee their countries of first asylum. And that unrest is simultaneously creating hundreds of thousands of new refugees.
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project began as an entirely volunteer effort with no overhead. We operated on grants and in-kind donations. This is the first year IRAP has had an operating budget ($76,000). Yet we’ve had some amazing accomplishments and we want to provide a summary of them along with a glimpse of some of the people we’ve helped. Currently, IRAP is a network of chapters at nine law schools (eight in the U.S. – Yale, NYU, Columbia, U. Penn, Stanford, U.C. Irvine, U.C. Berkeley and Duke; and one at the University of Jordan in Amman), with more than 270 participating law students and supervising attorneys. We have provided over $2.4 million in pro bono legal services and resettled more than 450 people.
The United States has a long and positive history of welcoming refugees from turmoil and strife around the world. We cannot afford to risk creating a new stateless mass of refugees in the Middle East. We need to prove we will protect our friends in the Middle East rather than contribute to further destabilization of the region. The current unrest throughout the Arab world makes it doubly important that we live up to these long held values.
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project has made important strides in improving the processing of refugees that will serve the nation well going forward. With your help, we can do even more.
Iraqi Refugees: An Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis
Eight years after the US invasion, Iraq remains a nation in crisis. It is the most dangerous place on earth, with dozens of car bombs, suicide attacks, and sectarian assassinations taking place each week.
Now, with the ongoing withdrawal of US forces, the displacement crisis that began in 2003 has once again spiraled out of control. Resources devoted to Iraqi refugee populations are steadily diminishing and huge numbers of Iraqis once employed by the US military are losing their jobs.
Already, the number of Iraqis employed by US forces has plummeted from 44,000 in January 2009 to 10,500 this December. According to The New York Times, this massive decrease in employment has generated profound political, economic, and security concerns, including massive unemployment and targeted assassinations of individuals perceived as "collaborators" with the Americans. "Few have been able to take advantage of American programs to relocate endangered Iraqi allies," noted the Times, "discouraged by long waiting lists and tangled rules for applying." These are precisely the sorts of people whom IRAP helps find safe passage and new beginnings.
Anyone who questions the ongoing nature of Iraq's human rights crisis need only look at the U.N.'s most recent data. In its survey conducted this fall, 61 percent of Iraqi refugees who had returned to Baghdad said they regretted coming back, most saying they did not feel safe. Applications for asylum in Syria have risen more than 50 percent since May, 2010.
As this exodus continues, Iraq has become a forgotten war, and international resources available to refugees have dwindled.
IRAP is committed to representing the needs of this vulnerable population – saving the lives of Iraqis threatened by the withdrawal of US forces, guiding our persecuted allies to safe passage in the West, and creating a durable human rights infrastructure in the process that can be applied to future refugee crises.
IRAP Has Built an International Network
Global law firms, law schools, NGO's, and Iraqi community leaders identify and advocate for families in urgent need of resettlement. We receive case referrals from a wide variety of groups, including:
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- Save the Children
- The Center for Victims of Torture
- Human Rights First
- Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
- Heartland Alliance
- Dozens of U.S. service-members and veterans
- Over 50 Iraqi activists and religious leaders
To learn more about IRAP's work, please visit www.iraqirefugee.us.
Most Recent Press
"Door to US May Be Closing for Iraqis Who Helped the US Military,"
New York Times,
September 19, 2013