August 19th, 2008
Senior U.S. Official Visits Syria to Discuss Iraqi Refugees

iraqi refugee boyJames Foley, the U.S. State Department senior coordinator for Iraqi refugees, is meeting with Middle East officials to discuss the Iraqi refugee needs in the region and, ultimately, to speed up the process of admitting Iraqi refugees to the U.S. Since October 1, 2007, the Bush administration has admitted 4,742 Iraqi refugees, and said it is on track to meet the target of 12,000 admissions by September 30.

Foley is scheduled to tour Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Yesterday, he landed in Syria, a country that shelters over a million Iraqi refugees — more Iraqis than any other country. The visit of a high-ranking U.S. official to Syria is considered rare because of the country’s support of anti-Israeli groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Iraqis and Afghans account for more than half of the world’s 11.4 million refugees. UNHCR estimates that of the 4.7 million Iraqis who have left their homes since the Gulf War (1990-1991), two million have fled since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Advocacy and human rights groups, along with several U.S. senators, have accused the Bush administration of not doing enough for the Iraqis who have fled.

WIDE ANGLE’s film about the Iraqi refugee crisis in Syria and Jordan premieres on August 19. Check your local listings for airtimes, and check back here for updates.

Photo courtesy of Catholic Relief Services.

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