Source: IRC website
16 Jun 2009 – The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is outdated and under-funded and is resettling Iraqi refugees into poverty rather than helping rebuild their lives in the country that offered them sanctuary, says the International Rescue Committee.
In a new report, “Iraqi Refugees in the United States: In Dire Straits,” the IRC’s Commission on Iraqi Refugees says resettlement continues to be a critical and lifesaving intervention for thousands of at-risk Iraqi refugees who are living in precarious conditions in exile and unable to return home safely. Yet the federal program no longer meets the basic needs of today’s newly arriving refugees and requires urgent reform.
“The resettlement program in the United States fails individuals with high levels of vulnerability, especially during difficult economic times,” the report states.
In April 2009, the IRC Commission sent delegations to Atlanta and Phoenix to examine the bleak situation for Iraqi refugees and impediments to their successful assimilation. They interviewed dozens of Iraqi refugees, who expressed deep gratitude for their safety and freedom in the United States, but also painted a picture of intense anguish and frustration.
Many Iraqi newcomers have been unable to secure jobs. In the meantime, they are exhausting available resources, seeing their benefits expire, struggling to get by and facing eviction and destitution. A large number are war widows with young children who arrive here grieving and alone, with little if any work experience. Many others are highly educated professionals who hope to find work in their areas of expertise, but discover that even entry-level jobs are elusive. High numbers suffer emotional trauma, war-related injuries or chronic illnesses. Unstable living conditions and uncertainty about the future compound their psychological distress.
“Nearly all of the Iraqis we surveyed had expectations that they would receive better care from a government whose policies had a hand in their upheaval, particularly those who put their lives on the line to work for the U.S. military and government and were targeted as a result,” says IRC president George Rupp. “Few imagined that they would receive such short-term and limited assistance upon arrival or that they could become homeless in the country that offered them shelter. They deserve better.”