the past 100 years, there have been a growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and settling
throughout the world, peaking recently with the latest Iraq War.
The Iran–Iraq War
from 1980 to 1988, the
1990 Iraqi Invasion of
, the first Gulf War
subsequent conflicts all generated hundreds of thousands if not
millions of refugees. Iran also provided asylum
for 1,400,000 Iraqi refugees who had
been uprooted as a result of the Persian Gulf War
(1990–91).The United Nations
estimates that nearly 2.2
million Iraqis have fled the country since 2003, with nearly
100,000 fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month.
According to UNHCR
estimates, over 4.7 million
have been displaced since
the US-led invasion of Iraq
2003. The humanitarian crisis
Iraq is the worst in the Middle East since Palestinians
were displaced in 1948.
2007, the U.S. resettled
1608 Iraqi refugees. Just one in six of all the Iraqis seeking
asylum in the United
Kingdom is accepted.
from Iraq have
increased in number since the US invasion into Iraq in March
An estimated 1.6-2.0 million people have fled the
country. The United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees
estimated in a report released
in November 2006 that more than 1.6 million Iraqis
had left Iraq since March 2003,
nearly 7 percent of the total population. The BBC on 22 January
2007 placed the refugee figure at 2 million. By 16 February 2007,
, the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees
, said that the external refugee
number reached 2 million and that within Iraq there are an
estimated 1.7 million internally
people. The refugee traffic out of the country has
increased since the intensification of civil war
April 29, 2008, the UNHCR estimated that over
4.7 million Iraqis have been
displaced, with 2.7 million within Iraq and 2
million in neighboring countries.
ventured to Jordan and Syria, creating
demographic shifts that have worried both governments.
persisted in both countries, and others hosting sizable Iraqi refugee
populations, that sectarian tensions would spill over amongst the
These refugees were estimated to have been leaving
Iraq at a rate of 3000-per-day by December 2006.
Roughly 40% of Iraq's middle class
believed to have fled, the U.N. said. Most are fleeing systematic
persecution and have no desire to return. Refugees are mired in
poverty as they are generally barred from working in their host
countries. In Syria alone an estimated 50,000 Iraqi girls and
women, many of them widows, are forced into prostitution
just to survive.
neighborhoods in Baghdad were
ethnically cleansed by Shia and Sunni militias and sectarian violence has broken out in
every Iraqi city where there is a mixed population.
have fled Basra, while Shias
were driven out of cities and towns north of Baghdad such as
Samarra or Baquba.
Satellite shows ethnic cleansing
Iraq was key factor in "surge
" success. Some areas are
being evacuated by every member of a particular secular group due
to lack of security, moving into new areas because of fear of
reprisal killings. As of 2007, the title "Kidnapping Capital of the World" belongs to
For decades, Saddam Hussein 'Arabised
northern Iraq. Now his ethnic cleansing is being reversed.
Thousands of ethnic Kurds
pushed into lands
formerly held by Iraqi Arabs
, forcing at least
100,000 of them to flee to refugee camps. Sunni Arabs have
driven out at least 70,000 Kurds from the Mosul’s western
Nowadays, eastern Mosul is Kurdish and western Mosul
is Sunni Arab. The policies of Kurdification
after 2003 (with non-Kurds being pressures
to move, in particular Assyrian
and Iraqi Turkmen
prompted serious inter-ethnic problems.
A May 25,
2007 article notes that in the past seven months only 69 people
from Iraq have been granted refugee
status in the United
In fiscal year 2006, just 202 refugees from
Iraq were allowed to resettle in the United States. As a result of
growing international pressure, on June 1, 2007 the Bush
administration said it was ready to admit 7,000 Iraqi refugees who
had helped the coalition since the invasion. In 2006, 1.27 million
granted legal permanent residence in the U.S., including 70,000
refugees. According to Washington based Refugees
International the U.S. has admitted fewer than 800 Iraqi
refugees since the invasion, Sweden had accepted
18,000 and Australia almost 6,000.
As many as 110,000 Iraqis could be targeted as collaborators
because of their work for
Jordan had taken in
roughly 750,000 Iraqi refugees since the war began by December
Jordan had been criticized by human rights
organizations for not classifying the newcomers by the title
"refugee" and instead labeled them "visitors," disinclining the
Jordanian government from extending to the Iraqis the same benefits
enjoyed by 1.5 million Palestinian
residing in Jordan.
Jordanians expressed resentment to the newcomers, built up since
the influx of refugees during and following the Persian Gulf War in
1990-1991. Then, affluent Iraqis arrived and invested in the
Jordanian economy, sending prices soaring too high for many working
class or lower class Jordanians. Following the 2003 war and
subsequent reconstruction, the arrival of mostly poor Iraqis
compounded problems, increasing demand and applying more pressure
on the Jordanian economy.
The government had also been accused of cracking down on Shiite
activities in the country while allowing
Iraqis to carry on their lives without
harassment from the government. The authorities denied any
discrimination, claiming it treated any illicit activity by Sunnis
or Shiites from Iraq equally.
Syria had taken in
roughly a million refugees by December 2006, with it possible as
many as half of them were Iraqi
Christians . Most of them had settled in and around the
city and suburbs of Damascus.
The reason for its large refugee population
can be attributed to more than just geography. Syria maintained an
open-door policy to Iraqis fleeing the war-ravaged country.
Syrian authorities worried that the new influx of refugees would
limit the country's resources. Sources like oil, heat, water and
electricity were said to be becoming more scarce as demand had gone
Syria alone an estimated 50,000 refugee girls and women,
many of them widows, are forced into prostitution just to
Cheap Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a
popular destination for sex tourists
clients come from wealthier countries in the Middle East - many are Saudi
Restrictions on refugees
October 1, 2007 news agencies reported that the Syrian government
decided to implement a strict visa regime to limit the number of
Iraqis pouring into the country
at up to 5,000 per day, cutting the only accessible escape route
for thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war in Iraq.
Under Syria's new
rules, only Iraqi merchants, businessmen and university professors
acquired from Syrian
may enter Syria. Until then, Syria
was the only country resisting strict entry regulations for
Egypt, which does
not border Iraq, became a major destination for Iraqi refugees in
As of December, the refugee population was approaching
150,000, 50 percent more than early October. Only 800 refugees were
in Egypt in 2003. In 2007, Egypt imposed restrictions on the entry
of new refugees into the country.
About 120,000 Iraqi Jews fled Iraq and moved to Israel in 1951.
Over the next decades, the community would further dwindle to an
estimate of no greater than 100 in 2008
Perhaps as many as half a million Iraqi
to have fled the sectarian fighting in Iraq. Most chose to go to
Syria due to the cultural similarities between the two countries,
Syria's open-door policy to Iraqis, and the large population of
Assyrians and other Christians in the country which perhaps totals
as high as 2 million. The large influx of Iraqis may tip the
demographic scale in a country with a diverse population. Although
represent less than 5% of the
total Iraqi population, they make up to 13% of the refugees now
living in nearby countries. Between October 2003 and March 2005
alone, 36% of 700,100 Iraqis who fled to Syria were Assyrians and
other Christians, judging from a sample of those registering for
asylum on political or religious grounds.
are an ancient ethnoreligious
group in southern Iraq. They are the last practicing gnostic
sect in the Middle East. There are
thought to have been about 40,000 Mandaeans in Iraq prior to the
. As a non-Muslim
group, they have been abused by sectarian militias. The vast majority of
Baghdadi Mandaeans left Baghdad many have
fled to Syria, Jordan and
elsewhere while Mandaean communities of southern Iraq are still
more or less secure with the exception of Basra where the
Mandaean Manda (Temple) was attacked by an
Mandaean diaspora organizations are
reportedly focusing all their resources on evacuating all the
remaining Mandaeans in Iraq .
Being such a small community the Mandaeans do not enjoy the same
protection and this has left them
vulnerable to the extremist elements in both the Sunni and Shia
communities. This has led to numerous instances of torture
, theft and
These very real threats coupled with the inability of the US and
Iraqi government to offer protection has resulted in the Mandaean
population falling from circa 50,000 to less than 13,000 (September
2005) and 5,000 (March 2007) ethnically
them from Iraqi society.
A Palestinian population of about 38,000 also faced pressure, with
many living in the Baghdadi neighborhood of al-Baladiya.
Denied access by Syria, more than 350 Palestinians
remained in "inhumane conditions"
on the Syrian border until finally being allowed into the country.
They face more uncertain conditions because most Palestinians do
not hold Iraqi citizenship and consequently do not hold passports.
The UNHCR appealed to Israel to allow this particular group of
refugees admission into the occupied territories of Gaza and the
West Bank. The agency said that from resettlement countries, only
Canada and Syria had taken Palestinians from Iraq in the
community was affected by several
acts of violence in 2007. On April 23, 2007 masked gunmen abducted and shot 23 Yazidis near
On August 14, 2007 Yazidis were targeted in
a series of bombings
became the deadliest suicide attack since the Iraq War
Kawliya or Qawliya are a small Roma minority in Iraq.
Since the U.S.-led invasion of
it has been difficult for Iraq's Qawliya population to
seek autonomy and safety. Many of their villages have been
destroyed or taken over by religious militias, and this has forced
Qawliya to flee to the north. One of these destroyed villages was itself
called Qawliya, located about 100 miles southeast of
There are about 60,000–400,000 Shabaks
in Iraq. Despite having their own language and culture unique from
other groups, Kurdish authorities have attempted to Kurdify
the Shabaks by occupying Shabak
villages and referring to them as "Kurdish Shabaks". In 2005, two
Assyrians were killed and four Shabaks were wounded by the KDP
demonstration organized by the Democratic Shabak Coalition, a group
which wants separate representation for the Shabak community.
On February 5th, 2005 the IRIN
reported titled "Iraq: Male homosexuality still a taboo." The
article stated, among other things that honor killings
by Iraqis against a gay family
member are common and given some legal protection. The article also
stated that the 2001 amendment to the criminal code stipulating the
death penalty for homosexuality "has not been changed", even
through Paul Bremer clearly ordered the criminal code to go back to
its original 1969 edition.
reports that gay Iraqis continue to be
subjected to threats, rape, kidnapping and murder based on their
as 133 women were killed in the city of Basra alone in
2006 -- 79 for violation of "Islamic
teachings" and 47 for honour
killings, according to IRIN, the news branch of the U.N.'s
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
International claims honour killings are also conducted by Shia militias
active women and those who did not follow a strict dress code, as
well as women who are perceived as human rights defenders. The
attacks on the women have intensified since British forces withdrew
to their base in September 2007. Iraqi security forces
infiltrated by militias.
Sulaymaniyah, there were 400 cases of the burning of women in 2006.
Kurdistan, at least
255 women had been killed in just the first six months of 2007,
three-quarters of them by burning.
(see stoning of Du'a Khalil Aswad
, abduction, beatings, suicides
through self-immolation, genital mutilation
and child abuse
masquerading as marriage of girls as
young as nine are all on the increase.
Many of the Iraqi women fleeing the Iraq
are turning to prostitution
feed their children. An estimated 50,000 prostitutes, some as young
as 13, are among the 1.2 million Iraqis who fled to Syria.
Refugee settlement beyond the Middle East
February 2007 the United
States and the United
Nations developed a plan to settle several thousand refugees in
the United States.
In an initial step, refugees would
apply for applicant status. The UN aims to register 135,000 to
200,000 to determine which people had fled persecution and would
thus qualify for refugee status.
The US aims to settle at least 5,000 of this group in the US by the
end of 2007. Since the 2003 invasion, the US has settled 466 Iraqi
refugees. The first group of anticipated refugees are presently in
Turkey, and had fled during the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Subsequently, refugees would be accepted from Syria, and then from
Jordan. Kristele Younes of Refugees International
these moves towards resettlement, but she said that "the numbers
remain low compared to what the needs are.”
A July 22, 2007 article notes that in the past nine months only 133
of the planned 7000 Iraqirefugees were allowed into the United
Of the refugees' status, US Senator Edward M. Kennedy
(Massachusetts) said, “We can’t
solve the problem alone, but we obviously bear a heavy
responsibility for the crisis.”
According to Washington-based Refugees International the U.S. has
admitted fewer than 800 Iraqi refugees since the invasion, Sweden
had accepted 18,000 and Australia
resettled almost 6,000. More than 2 million refugees
have arrived in the U.S. since 1980, including about 1 million from
Vietnam, while Australia and Canada accepted
more than 250,000 Vietnamese
In 2006, 1.27 million immigrants were granted
legal residence in the United States.
Sweden, known for
liberal asylum policies, has seen a surge of refugees from war-torn
Iraq in the last year.
Sweden currently accepts more than
half of all asylum applications from Iraqis in Europe. In 2006,
more than 9,000 Iraqis fled their country and came to Sweden
seeking shelter, a four times increase over 2005. Sweden's
immigration authority expects up to 40,000 Iraqis seeking asylum in
2007. An estimated 79,200 Iraqis call Sweden their home. Many
Iraqis fled to Sweden during the 90's as well. Current refugees
like Sweden because many of their relatives are there and because
of the generous refugee policies.
The need for aid and essential services
The United Nations
in February 2007
appealed for $60 million to assist displaced Iraqis.
At the end of July 2007 the NGO Coordinating Committee in Iraq
(NCCI) and Oxfam International
issued a report, Rising to the humanitarian challenge in
that said that one-third of the populace was in need of
aid. (The NCCI is an alliance of approximately 80 international
NGOs and 200 Iraqi NGOs, formed in Baghdad in 2003.) The report,
based on survey research of the nation's civilian population,
reports that 70 percent of the population lacks proper access to
water supplies. Only 20 percent of the population has proper
sanitation. Almost 30 percent of children experience malnutrition.
About 92 percent of children experience problems learning. These
figures represent sharp increases since 2003.
International conferences on Iraqi refugee crisis
April 17, 2007 an international conference on the Iraqi refugee
crisis began in Geneva,
Switzerland. Attendees included Human Rights Watch representatives, U.S.
Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees representatives and members of 60 other
World Health Organization
began a two day conference in Damascus, Syria, on July 29, 2007. The conference would
address the health requirements of the more than two million
refugees from Iraq. Aside from the UHO, participants in the
conference included the International Committee
of the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and various UN agencies.
- UN warns of five million Iraqi refugees
- U.N.: 100,000 Iraq refugees flee monthly.
Alexander G. Higgins, Boston Globe, November 3, 2006
- Take Iraqi refugees in
- Invaders and allies ignore Iraq's humanitarian
- U.S. lets in fewer Iraqi refugees, not more,
- Just one in six of Iraq's refugees is accepted
- Iraq refugees chased from home, struggle to
- Warnings of Iraq refugee crisis
- Interview with António Guterres, the United Nations high
commissioner for refugees, 16 February 2007, Weekend
Edition-Saturday, Millions Leave Home in Iraqi Refugee
- UNHCR - Iraq: Latest return survey shows few
intending to go home soon. Published April 29, 2008. Retrieved
May 20, 2008.
- 40% of middle class believed to have fled crumbling
- Doors closing on fleeing Iraqis
- Iraq's middle class escapes, only to find poverty in
- '50,000 Iraqi refugees' forced into
- Iraqi refugees forced into prostitution
- Sects slice up Iraq as US troops 'surge'
- Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes
- "There is ethnic cleansing"
- Satellite images show ethnic cleanout in Iraq,
Reuters, September 19, 2008
- _Toc78803800 Forced Displacement and Arabization of
- Iraq Ethnic Cleansing Archives
- THE REACH OF WAR: NORTHERN IRAQ; KURDS ADVANCING TO
RECLAIM LAND IN NORTHERN IRAQ, New York Times
- Sunni Arabs driving out Kurds in northern Iraq
- The other Iraqi civil war, Asia Times
- Stansfield, Gareth. (2007). Iraq: People,
History, Politics. p71
- Displaced Iraqis running out of cash, and prices
- "Syria shuts border to Iraqi refugees - UNHCR"
- Laura Zuber, "Syrian visa restrictions "trap" Iraqi refugees,"
uruknet.info of Italy
- "Syria restores visa limits" "BBC News"
- New visa rules staunch flow of Iraqi refugees into
Syria - UN official
- SALAH NASRAWI, " Refugees protest restrictions in Mideast,"
Associated Press, Dec. 04, 2006
- Many Christians Flee Iraq
- Iraq's Christians Flee as Extremist Threat
- U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Background
Information on the Situation of Non-Muslim Religious Minorities in
Iraq (Oct. 2005)
- Assyrians Face Escalating Abuses in "New Iraq,"
Inter-Press Service (May 3, 2006)
- "Incipient Genocide" http://www.aina.org/reports/ig.pdf
- Doug Bandow, "Thrown to the Lions," "The American Spectator,"
July 2, 2007
- "In Twenty Years there will be No Christians in Iraq" "The
- Mandaeans persecuted in Iraq
- Iraq's Mandaeans 'face extinction' , Angus Crawford,
BBC, March 4, 2007.
- Iraq chaos threatens ancient faith
- In a Gypsy Village's Fate, An Image of Iraq's
Future. The Washington Post. April 3, 2004. Report
about the raiding and destruction of the village Qawliya in
- Crushing Iraq's human mosaic, BBC News
- IRIN Middle East | Middle East | Iraq | IRAQ: Male
homosexuality still a taboo | Human Rights |Feature
- " Gays in Iraq terrorized by threats, rape,
murder", by Frederik Pleitgen, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Wayne Drash,
July 24, 2008, CNN
- Mark Lattimer on the brutal treatment of women in
Iraq, The Guardian, December 13, 2007
- Hidden victims of a brutal conflict: Iraq's
- Barbaric 'honour killings' become the weapon to
subjugate women in Iraq, The Independent, April 28, 2008
- Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in
Syria, New York Times, May 29, 2007
- Iraqi women: Prostituting ourselves to feed our
children, CNN.com, August 16, 2007
- How Many Child Prostitutes Is Bush Responsible For?,
AlterNet, March 18, 2008
- RACHEL L. SWARNS and KATHERINE ZOEPF, More Refugees are Headed to U.S.," "New York
Times," 14 February 2007
- More Iraqi Refugees Are Headed to U.S. - New York
- Ambassador wants more visas for loyal Iraqis
- US in Iraq for 'another 50 years',
Australian, June 2, 2007
- U.S., West seen skirting Iraqi refugee
- A New Era Of Refugee Resettlement
- Sweden wants EU to help with Iraq refugees
- NY Times Advertisement
- Rising to the humanitarian challenge in Iraq, NGO
Coordinating Committee in Iraq and Oxfam International, 30 July
- Valentina Mites, "Iraq: Refugee Conference Addresses Plight Of
Millions," Radio Free Europte April 17, 2007
- "WHO opens conference in Syria on Iraqi refugee health needs,"
"The International Herald Tribune," July 29, 2007