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Congressional Foreign Aid for Refugees

The recent increase in violence in Iraq has many worried about a new uptick in refugee and asylum cases as fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people in the last couple of weeks. Compounding on the already critical Syrian crisis, the uptick in internally displaced persons in Iraq is worrisome for countries around the world.

Encouragingly, Congress recently released their foreign aid budget with more money allocated toward refugee accounts than the initial White House request. The House budget, which provides over $3 billion for refugee accounts, is more than the President’s request of $2 billion.

The Congressional foreign aid for refugees, which stands at $48.3 billion in total, allows for more refugee aid as a result of the ongoing crisis in Syria and the recent surge in violence in Iraq.

To date, the U.S. has already begun to draw on the refugee account in order to deal with newly displaced Iraqis fleeing from areas contested by the Sunni group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS.) The U.S. refugee caseload is already substantial and receives the largest amount of requests for asylum in the world.

Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their country due to persecution, war or violence, and who generally have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group. An internally displaced person differs from a refugee in that they have not crossed an international border and are not protected under international law or eligible to receive aid.

According to a 2012 U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) report, by the end of 2012 there were more than 45.2 million people in situations of displacement, more than the any time since 1994. Fifty-five percent of all refugees listed in the UNHCR report come from five war-afflicted countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.

As the crises in Iraq becomes more critical, the surge in displaced Iraqis which strains already stretched resources both internationally and domestically will need to be addressed by the international community.

The Congressional foreign aid budget is a good first step in ensuring appropriate resources are allocated to deal with the refugees, as these crises not only threaten the stability of each country, but of the regions as well.

— Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Politico, UN Refugees, The GuardianUNHCR
Photo: Asia News