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Amnesty Calls for International Community to Do More for Iraqi Refugees

An Amnesty International report blames the international community for failing to address adequately Iraq's worsening refugee crisis, leaving the main host countries of Syria and Jordan shouldering much of the responsibility. As a result, the two countries are tightening border controls and cutting off escape routes for people fleeing from sectarian and other violence in Iraq. Tendai Maphosa filed this report for VOA from London.

The Amnesty report commends Syria and Jordan for accepting the refugees, but condemns other states for doing too little to help them cope with the huge demands they face in meeting the needs of the Iraqi refugees they now host.

"Amnesty International has looked at the responses by the international community and in particular those countries that were involved in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, who we see as having a particular responsibility to the refugees, and we see that while some effort has been made in terms of assistance or some promises to resettle refugees these really are quite inadequate and very minor compared to the magnitude of the actual crisis," said Louise Moore, a refugee officer at Amnesty International.

Amnesty said continuing to ignore the flow of refugees from Iraq would spark "greater political instability across the wider region".

Syria hosts 1.4 million Iraqi refugees and Jordan an estimated 500,000. More than two million are displaced within Iraq. The number grows at an estimated 2,000 a day - making it the world's fastest growing displacement crisis.

Amnesty International says the refugees are placing severe strain on the resources of Syria and Jordan. Unless increased long-term support from other states is forthcoming this may become soon become unsustainable. Moore says both governments are not receiving any bilateral aid to support their efforts to look after the refugees.

As a result, the two countries are finding it increasingly difficult and are placing visa requirements on Iraqis escaping the violence in their country. Amnesty says this will prevent Iraqis from receiving the protection they need.

Amnesty International Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program Malcolm Smart urged both governments to keep their borders open. Smart called for other countries to provide increased aid to enable Syria and Jordan to meet the health, schooling and other needs of the refugees.

Despite the continuing violence and increased numbers of people fleeing, the number of Iraqi refugees resettled in third countries has fallen between 2003 and 2006.