A U.S. humanitarian advocacy group says in a report the number of
refugees around the world continues to grow. It says refugees are
facing mistreatment and a lack of assistance in dozens of countries.
VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, the report was issued on
the eve of World Refugee Day Friday.
The U.S. Committee for
Refugees and Immigrants, or USCRI, estimates the number of refugees has
increased in the last year to more than 14 million people worldwide.
Much of the recent growth comes from vast numbers of Iraqis, more than
two million in all, who continue to flee violence and bloodshed that
has gripped the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Iraqi refugees have settled in Jordan and Syria, where they are
prohibited from working legally, according to USCRI President Lavinia
"You have 40 percent of the professional class of Iraq
who have left the country," Limon said. "How many teachers,
doctors, engineers, who speak the same language, who have common
culture and religion to Syria and Jordan, and if they were allowed to
work they would be contributing to those economies, instead of being
engaged in underground work where they are exploited?"
speaking on Capitol Hill. She was joined by several U.S. lawmakers who
accused the Bush administration of failing to do its part to welcome
refugees from Iraq, especially those who once served as translators for
U.S. troops and contractors performing missions in Iraq.
"When you look at a country like
Sweden, that has nine million people, and in 2007 alone relocated
18,000 Iraqis, and then you look at the United States, which has
relocated around 5,000 [Iraqis] since 2003, you wonder as to the
commitment our country has made to take care of people that we put at
risk," said Maryland
Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.
The U.S. State Department says it
aims to relocate 12,000 Iraqi refugees this year and is processing
applications as quickly as possible.
In its 2008 World Refugee
Survey, USCRI lists nine countries it deems the world's "worst places
for refugees." They include Bangladesh for its treatment of Rohingya
refugees, China for its spurning of people fleeing North Korea, Russia
for returning some refugees from Uzbekistan, and Thailand for expelling
tens of thousands of Burmese refugees.
The report also
criticizes many European nations for making it difficult for refugees
to gain entry, as well as Kenya and other countries for confining vast
numbers of refugees to sprawling, semi-permanent camps - a practice
USCRI refers to as "warehousing."
"The question now is: are we really protecting refugees
by keeping them in camps at all? We saw what happened to the Darfurian
refugees in Chad," said Merrill Smith, who edited USCRI's 2008
survey. "They were attacked repeatedly.
Camps become notoriously infiltrated by guerrilla forces. It is an
inhuman situation. It is not an appropriate response to refugee
The report does note some encouraging signs,
including the formation of coalitions in Israel to advocate on behalf
of refugees from Sudan's Darfur region, and similar pro-refugee
initiatives in Thailand, Tanzania, and elsewhere.
that refugee rights are human rights, and that all nations have a duty
to accept and look after people fleeing violence and danger in other
lands. The organization acknowledges that burdens are inevitably placed
on host countries, but that those costs must be defrayed through
financial contributions and other assistance from the broader