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Iraqi Refugees Flee War-torn Country

Millions of Iraqi citizens have left their war-torn country to seek refuge abroad or fled to other parts of the country. A migration expert and a representative of a humanitarian group weigh in on the situation.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Despite the U.S. military troop surge in Iraq in recent months, Iraqis are still fleeing the country, more than 40,000 each month, according to the U.N. Others don't leave, but relocate inside violence-torn Iraq.

    For more on the ever-worsening refugee situation, we're joined by Kristele Younes of Refugees International, a humanitarian organization. She recently returned from a trip assessing the situation for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. She was in northern Iraq earlier this year.

    And Dana Graber Ladek of the International Organization for Migration, based in Amman, Jordan, she monitors internally displaced refugees inside Iraq. She visited northern Iraq just a couple of weeks ago.

    Welcome to you both.

    Kristele Younes, you began a recent piece you wrote saying that Iraqis are now the third-largest displaced population in the world, after the Palestinians and the Sudanese. Is it really approaching that scale?

  • KRISTELE YOUNES, Refugees International:

    Absolutely. And not only is it the third-largest refugee population in the world, it's also the fastest-growing refugee population in the world. So it is likely to grow again. We are now at 2 million, at least, Iraqi refugees in the Middle East, and those numbers are growing by 40,000 to 50,000 every month who are still getting to Syria.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    These are the ones who have left?

  • KRISTELE YOUNES:

    Yes.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And how about internally?

  • KRISTELE YOUNES:

    Internally, according to the International Organization for Migration, and to the U.N. — and Dana can speak to that — there are now 2.2 million internally displaced persons inside Iraq, and those numbers are growing, as well.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So are we talking about 10 percent, maybe 20 percent of Iraq's pre-war population?

  • KRISTELE YOUNES:

    Yes, we are, and those numbers will continue to grow, at least as long as the Syrian border remains open. Unfortunately, other countries neighboring Iraq have now closed their borders, and we're now facing a situation where people want to flee but have nowhere to go.

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