Sunday, November 23, 2008
the reality of displacement
So today I spoke with my friend Ruthie Epstein, who works for Human Rights First, an organization that assists refugees and people who are seeking asylum. She just came back from a three week work trip to Syria, where she met with Iraqi refugees. I was shocked to hear some of the numbers she told me. I hope I remember all of this information correctly but this is what she told me: There have been 4 million Iraqis displaced by the war. She told me that most of the people were displaced not by general violence but rather by targeted violence/direct threats. She said that this year the United States accepted 14,000 refugees from Iraq, which is up from 1600 from the year before. The refugees staying in Syria are from the middle class in Iraq, and came to Syria with some savings, most of which are running out by now. They aren't able to get working papers to stay there, so they try to get relocated to third countries, preferably in Europe, she said, though she speculated that a lot of the refugees would probably be fine about being relocated to the U.S. I was not aware that in Europe, Sweden has been taking in the largest number of refugees. She said that a ton of refugees have gone into Iran (I think she said 50,000??), but that the U.S. tries to keep that quiet.