[Senate Prints 110-44]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]



110th Congress 
 2d Session                 COMMITTEE PRINT                     S. Prt.
                                                                 110-44
_______________________________________________________________________
 
 MANAGING CHAOS--THE IRAQI REFUGEES OF JORDAN AND SYRIA AND INTERNALLY 
                       DISPLACED PERSONS IN IRAQ

                               __________

                           STAFF TRIP REPORT

                                 TO THE

                     COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

                          UNITED STATES SENATE

                       One Hundred Tenth Congress

                             Second Session

                               APRIL 2008

                                     




                       U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE

41-773                       WASHINGTON : 2008
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                  COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

                JOSEPH R. BIDEN, Jr., Delaware, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut     RICHARD G. LUGAR, Indiana
JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts         CHUCK HAGEL, Nebraska
RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin       NORM COLEMAN, Minnesota
BARBARA BOXER, California            BOB CORKER, Tennessee
BILL NELSON, Florida                 GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, Ohio
BARACK OBAMA, Illinois               LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey          JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland         JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
ROBERT P. CASEY, Jr., Pennsylvania   DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
JIM WEBB, Virginia                   JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming
                   Antony J. Blinken, Staff Director
            Kenneth A. Myers, Jr., Republican Staff Director

                                  (ii)


                            C O N T E N T S

                              ----------                              
                                                                   Page
Letter of Transmittal............................................     v
Executive Summary................................................     1
Introduction.....................................................     2
The Crisis Through Iraqi Eyes....................................     3
Returnees--a Trickle or a Flood..................................     6
The Humanitarian Response........................................     7
U.S. Humanitarian Efforts........................................    10
Resettlement.....................................................    11
Recommendations..................................................    13
Conclusion.......................................................    17

                                 (iii)


                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

                              ----------                              

                                                     April 8, 2008.

    Dear Colleagues: There are as many as 2 million Iraqi 
refugees in Jordan and Syria, the vast majority of whom have 
been displaced from their homes since the war in Iraq began in 
2003. Another 2 million refugees are displaced inside Iraq. In 
January 2008, we directed two of our staff members, Sharon 
Waxman of Senator Kennedy's staff and Perry Cammack of the 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to visit Jordan and Syria 
and report on the conditions of Iraqi refugees and on American 
and international efforts on their behalf.
    Their findings suggest a startling lack of American 
leadership in a crisis that much of the international community 
considers a result of our intervention in Iraq. Acknowledging 
that the war in Iraq has resulted in one of the greatest 
humanitarian crises of the post-cold-war era is a bitter pill 
to swallow. Ensuring that this refugee population receives the 
humanitarian treatment and dignity that it deserves requires 
American leadership of a kind not seen to this point.
    We believe that more must be done by the United States to 
deal with this crisis. An appropriate action by President Bush 
at this time would be to appoint a senior official in the White 
House to coordinate our overall policy on the Iraqi refugees 
and internally displaced persons. As President Ford stated in 
appointing the late Julia Taft to be Director of the 
Interagency Task Force on Indochina Refugees, our country's 
response to the refugee crisis caused by the Vietnam war was 
``a reaffirmation of American awareness of the roots and ideals 
of our society.''
    We hope that this report and the recommendations contained 
in it will be useful to our colleagues in Congress and to the 
public in considering this important issue.
            Sincerely,

                                   Edward M. Kennedy,
                                     Chairman, Senate Judiciary,
                                     Subcommittee on Immigration,
                                     Refugees and Border Security.

                                   Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,
                                     Chairman, Senate Committee
                                     on Foreign Relations.

                                  (v)

 MANAGING CHAOS--THE IRAQI REFUGEES OF JORDAN AND SYRIA AND INTERNALLY 
                       DISPLACED PERSONS IN IRAQ

                              ----------                              


                           Executive Summary

    In January 2007, we traveled to the Middle East and spent 2 
days in Jordan and 3 days in Syria evaluating the status of 
Iraqi refugees and the American and international responses to 
their plight. This report is based on meetings in Washington, 
DC, Amman, and Damascus with senior American, Iraqi, United 
Nations, Jordanian, and Syrian officials, humanitarian workers, 
refugee experts, and, most importantly, Iraqi refugees. The 
Iraqi refugee crisis is not limited to these two countries; 
Iraqi refugees are dispersed inside Iraq and throughout the 
entire Middle East and beyond. Since approximately 80 percent 
of these refugees are thought to reside in Jordan or Syria, we 
made them the focus of our trip and study. However, many of our 
conclusions are pertinent to the wider region. Our key findings 
are:

   The influx of as many as 2 million Iraqi refugees to 
        Jordan and Syria has created an enormous burden on 
        these countries and is a massive humanitarian crisis 
        that will require sustained international attention for 
        many years. The number of new arrivals, although down 
        sharply since the summer of 2007, still exceeds the 
        number of returnees. Refugees report little or no 
        desire to return to Iraq anytime soon, if ever, and 
        those who have returned cite economic desperation as 
        the primary factor.
   American leadership is fundamental to rallying the 
        international response. The international community 
        generally views the Iraqi refugee crisis as a direct 
        result of our intervention in Iraq and humanitarian 
        assistance professionals see the American response as 
        far from commensurate with the magnitude of the 
        problem. The United States should, as a matter of 
        policy, fund 50 percent of the United Nations and other 
        international organizations' emergency appeals for 
        Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons rather 
        than its standard 25 to 30 percent contribution. 
        Dramatically increasing American support for the 
        refugees will increase our ability to solicit 
        contributions from the international community and 
        demonstrate a commitment that will make it easier for 
        host countries to increase legal protections.
   The administration should appoint a high-level White 
        House coordinator to oversee the United States 
        humanitarian response. This person should immediately 
        design and implement a more robust assistance effort 
        for Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. 
        The coordinator should be responsible for soliciting 
        international donor contributions, coordinating the 
        response with international and nongovernmental 
        organizations, and ensuring that U.S. assistance 
        supports a cohesive international strategy.
   The goals set by the Bush administration to resettle 
        7,000 Iraqi refugees in the United States in fiscal 
        year 2007 and 12,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal year 2008 
        have created expectations among the refugees and an 
        obligation to meet those expectations. Despite the 
        clear need, the United States resettled only 1,608 
        Iraqis in fiscal year 2007 and will be hard-pressed to 
        meet this year's goal. Most experts agree that Syria, 
        host to the most vulnerable Iraqi community, should be 
        the primary target of U.S. resettlement efforts, and 
        the administration needs to think more creatively about 
        alternative mechanisms to increase our processing 
        ability there.
   Host countries, such as Jordan and Syria, should 
        take steps to regularize the legal status of Iraqi 
        refugees on their soil. It is unreasonable to expect 
        Jordan and Syria to permanently integrate Iraqi 
        refugees into their societies. However, only small 
        fractions of Iraqis are working or attending schools 
        and many are running out of resources. Their status 
        needs to be regularized so they can work legally and 
        come out of the shadows. Without these changes, 
        economic and psychological pressure on the refugee 
        community will increase. Increased marginalization 
        could breed radicalization unless proactive steps are 
        taken to provide refugees with increased educational 
        and economic opportunities.

                              Introduction

    Although several hundred thousand refugees fled Iraq in the 
years before the war began in 2003, the overwhelming majority 
of the displacements have occurred since February 2006, when 
large-scale sectarian violence erupted in the aftermath of the 
al-Askariyah mosque bombing, a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra. 
According to United Nations and United States data, over 2 
million Iraqi refugees have fled their country and over 2 
million more are internally displaced persons (IDPs) inside 
Iraq.\1\ Given the security challenges in Iraq and the 
difficult working environments in the region, reliable data on 
Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons do not exist, 
and some estimates have placed the total number of displaced 
Iraqis as high as 5 million. An estimated 80 percent of the 
refugees are in Syria or Jordan with smaller populations in 
Egypt, Lebanon, and beyond. Officially, there are 1.5 million 
in Syria and 500,000 in Jordan, though some observers think the 
actual numbers may be lower.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ The Department of State estimates that there are 2-2.4 million 
refugees and 2.2-2.4 million IDPs. Source: Department of State, ``Iraq 
Weekly Status Report,'' March 5, 2008, http://www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/
rpt/iraqstatus/c24957.htm. The 1951 International Convention on 
Refugees defines a refugee as ``a person who, owing to a well-founded 
fear of being persecuted is outside the country of their nationality.'' 
IDPs while not protected by the 1951 Convention, are defined by the 
United Nations as those who have been forced to leave their homes, but 
who have not crossed an international border.
    \2\ In Jordan and Syria, we heard numbers both significantly higher 
and lower than the official estimates. According to Refugees 
International, there are additionally approximately 130,000 Iraqi 
refugees in Egypt, 57,000 in Iran, 50,000 in Lebanon and a total of 
200,000 in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Whatever the precise numbers, these refugees are 
significant burdens on both countries. Jordan and Syria are 
middle-income countries lacking the petroleum wealth of many of 
their neighbors.\3\ Refugees are a sensitive issue in the Arab 
world. There are some 4.25 million Palestinian refugees in the 
Middle East, most of them children and grandchildren of those 
originally displaced, and the issue is particularly acute in 
Jordan, where a majority of the population is believed to be 
Palestinian.\4\ The internal security agencies in both 
countries have concerns about the security risks posed by Iraqi 
refugees, given the violence in Iraq and the terrorism threat 
throughout the region. These are not hypothetical concerns. In 
November 2005, coordinated suicide bomb attacks by Iraqis at 
three hotels in Amman, Jordan, killed at least 60 people and 
injured more than 100 others.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ Although the Iraqi refugee communities are coming under 
increasing financial strain, the net financial flows are thought to be 
out of Iraq and into host countries, particularly Jordan. Iraqis able 
to deposit $150,000 in Jordanian banks have a relatively easy time 
gaining residency, which apparently was the case for significant 
numbers in the early years of the war, though newer arrivals usually 
have far fewer resources. Nonetheless, many refugees--44 percent of 
those in Jordan, according to the FAFO's survey--receive remittances 
from Iraq. See FAFO, ``Iraqis in Jordan 2007: Their Number and 
Characteristics,'' http://www.fafo.no/ais/middeast/jordan/IJ.pdf
    \4\ Officially, 1.8 million of Jordan's prewar population of 6 
million is registered by the United Nations as refugees, although most 
experts believe Palestinians actually constitute between 50 and 60 of 
the population. Syria, with a prewar population of about 20 million 
persons, has about 440,000 registered Palestinian refugees. For 
official numbers, see United Nations Relief and Works Agency for 
Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). http://www.un.org/unrwa/
publications/
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The flow of refugees out of Iraq has slowed since last 
fall, although there are no reliable data. In the aftermath of 
the November 2005 Amman bombings, Jordan gradually restricted 
Iraqi entry. By early 2007, very few Iraqi refugees could enter 
Jordan. Syria began severely restricting border access in 
October 2007, although significant numbers of Iraqis continue 
to seek refuge in Syria. Additionally, the reduction of 
violence in Iraq and possibly the increasing difficulty in 
moving between internal Iraqi provincial borders have reduced 
the rate of displacement inside Iraq. Sectarian cleansing has 
effectively been completed in many neighborhoods of Baghdad and 
elsewhere, homogenizing local populations and reducing 
sectarian fault-lines. But the consensus in the region is clear 
and unequivocal. Humanitarian needs will continue to increase 
for the foreseeable future and assistance will be required for 
some time, even if Iraq's violent and political conflicts are 
resolved.

                     The Crisis Through Iraqi Eyes

    The most important part of our trip was the opportunity to 
interact with Iraqi refugees.\5\ Iraqis in Syria and Jordan 
form invisible communities that only reluctantly make 
themselves known to the authorities and humanitarian workers. 
They typically live in cramped, barely heated basement 
apartments in neighborhoods that show no outward signs of an 
Iraqi presence. They are diverse in terms of ethnicity, 
religious affiliation, and geographic and socio-economic 
background. Those individuals who left Iraq earlier in the 
conflict were wealthier in the aggregate, and less desperate 
than newer arrivals, who are disproportionately located in 
Syria.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\ Our interactions with Iraqis, facilitated primarily by UNHCR in 
both Jordan and Syria, included home visits, focus group discussions, 
visits to schools and health clinics and observations of UNHCR 
registration and U.S. immigration interviews.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The vast majority live in urban centers--Damascus and 
Amman--where they seek to keep as low a profile as possible for 
fear of deportation. We were told repeatedly that both cities 
are expensive for refugees. Said one refugee: ``Our rent and 
heating bills keep going up. We simply don't have enough 
money.'' As a result of dwindling resources, secondary 
movements are increasingly common. In Jordan, Iraqis are now 
migrating from the wealthier neighborhoods of West Amman to the 
less affluent East Amman, and from East Amman to still more 
affordable suburbs and villages beyond. In Syria, most Iraqis 
are thought to live in the vicinity of Damascus, but increasing 
numbers are moving outside the capital where it is less 
expensive.
    The refugees' greatest concerns are their lack of legal 
status and inability to work legally without risking 
deportation or exploitation. They are tolerated but not 
welcomed, and face declining, and often desperate, economic 
conditions.\6\ In both countries, Iraqis complain that 
employers harass and refuse to pay refugees who, because they 
work illegally, have no legal recourse. For many Iraqi men, 
their refugee status is a symbol of shame--for relying on 
humanitarian assistance, for not being able to provide for 
their families, and for having been displaced in the first 
place. More worryingly, the presence of hundreds of thousands 
of angry and idle young men provides potentially fertile ground 
for extremist ideologies. As one refugee said, ``If we don't 
take care of them, someone else will.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\ Good economic data does not exist for Syria. FAFO surveyed 
Iraqi refugees in Jordan and found that despite severe international 
economic sanctions on Iraq between 1990 and 2003, 63 percent of the 
refugees reported being worse off economically than they were before 
the war. 18 percent reported being better off, so clearly a small 
minority has managed to benefit from the relocation. See FAFO, ``Iraqis 
in Jordan 2007: Their Number and Characteristics.'' http://www.fafo.no/
ais/middeast/jordan/IJ.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Iraqis told us they want safer access for their children at 
local schools. Some mothers told us their children fear 
attending school because of harassment and ridicule. Iraqi 
children are also blamed for overcrowding in schools, although 
their numbers remain relatively low. Concerned parents often 
forbid them from playing outside or showing themselves 
publicly. Jordan and Syria have theoretically opened their 
health care systems to Iraqis for primary care, but in 
practice, Iraqis told us they are turned away and are reluctant 
to seek it.
    The population is extraordinarily traumatized, greatly 
contributing to their sense of vulnerability. We met a few 
Iraqis in Jordan who had fled Baathist persecution in the 
1990s. However, almost all of the refugees we interacted with 
had arrived within the last two years. Most had experienced the 
violent death or disappearance of an immediate family member, 
typically a father or a son. In some cases, families were given 
only hours or even minutes to prepare for departure. A mother 
we met in a Damascus health clinic told us that her son had 
seen so much death and destruction in Iraq that he would not 
leave her side. A woman in Amman relayed terrifying details of 
her kidnapping by militia members. A family told us their 8-
year-old son had seen a man assassinated on the street. We saw 
art drawn by young children depicting scenes of insurgents, 
American tanks and murdered children.\7\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \7\ According to an IPSOS survey of Iraqis who were in the process 
of registering with UNHCR in Syria, 89 percent suffered from depression 
and 82 percent suffered from anxiety. Additionally, ``68 percent 
reported interrogation or harassment by militias or other groups with 
threat to life . . . 23 percent had been kidnapped, 72 percent had been 
eye witnesses to a car bombing, and 75 percent knew someone close to 
them who had been killed or murdered. Note that because of the 
convenience sampling methodology used, the results are not necessarily 
representative of either the total refugee population or registered 
refugee population. See, IPSOS, ``Second IPSOS Survey on Iraqi 
Refugees,'' January 22, 2008, http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/
home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=SUBSITES&id=4795f96f2.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Iraqis complain of ostracism, discrimination, and 
exploitation by host communities. The refugee community is rife 
with rumors of Iraqis being rounded up, detained, and expelled. 
Refugees told us repeatedly that they feel scape-goated for a 
variety of perceived and real socioeconomic grievances, from 
rising real estate prices and high inflation to an alleged rise 
in criminality and prostitution. We heard stories of neighbors 
threatening to report Iraqis to the authorities for expulsion.
    Human trafficking, domestic violence, and prostitution are 
on the rise, particularly in Syria. Some refugee women 
expressed concern about sexual exploitation of those working 
illegally. In Amman, we observed a classroom discussion of 7- 
and 8-year-olds on ``why domestic violence is harmful.'' 
According to one international worker: ``An increasing number 
of women in Syria are choosing prostitution. It's far more 
lucrative than the $150 monthly stipend from the United 
Nations.'' \8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\ Because of cultural sensitivities, fear and the criminality 
involved, data on prostitution simply does not exist. Estimates are as 
high as 50,000, although we did not hear figures this high during our 
visit. See Hassan, Nil, ``'50,000 Iraqi refugees' forced into 
prostitution,'' The Independent, June 24, 2007.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Iraqis referred to the U.S. Government by UNHCR for 
resettlement complain of excruciating delays and are often 
exasperated by the process. One man we met in Syria had worked 
for the United States in Baghdad in 2004, and he has family in 
the United States. He had been waiting for more than 6 months 
for a Department of Homeland Security interview and felt lost 
in the bureaucracy and abandoned by the process. He did not 
know how to obtain information for his application, either from 
the U.S. Government or the United Nations. ``First we fled 
chaos in Iraq,'' he said, ``and now we are waiting, always 
waiting.''
    The refugees are also disappointed with the Iraqi 
Government. Rather than as an ally or advocate, the Iraqi 
Government is seen with hostility. In the words of one Iraqi, 
the Iraqi Government ``hates the refugees because we are a 
shameful reminder of its failures.'' The refugees say the Iraqi 
Embassies in Jordan and Syria are unresponsive, unreliable, and 
unsympathetic to their troubles. Embassies are unable to 
provide humanitarian assistance or pensions. It costs about $25 
dollars to renew a passport even for refugees, which for a 
family of six or eight can be prohibitively expensive.
    The refugee community feels profoundly aggrieved at the 
turn their lives have taken, and many are palpably despondent 
about their future. Mothers despair that there is ``no joy'' in 
their children's lives. Some Iraqis believe that, over time, 
the host governments will gradually ratchet up the pressure 
against them until they are forced back into Iraq against their 
will. Others simply expect to run out of money. In the words of 
one woman: ``Our children are lost, waiting for the situation 
in Iraq to improve. They are not in school and they lack any 
opportunities. If our children are not educated, who will 
rebuild Iraq?''

                    Returnees--A Trickle or a Flood?

    Beginning last fall, great attention was paid to reports 
that tens of thousands of refugees had begun returning to Iraq 
from Syria. The Iraqi Government claimed last December that 
60,000 Iraqis had returned, while the Iraqi Red Crescent 
estimated the figure at 47,000.\9\ Some interpreted these 
reports as evidence that the Iraqi refugee crisis was beginning 
to abate, a narrative that the Iraqi Government readily 
promoted.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ Agence France Press, ``More Iraqis heading to Syria than 
returning home,'' February 7, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A precise accounting of the returnees proved impossible in 
Syria during our visit, but it seems clear that the rate of 
returns subsided in January and February. A recent UNHCR report 
cited Syrian data that 1,200 Iraqis entered Syria daily in 
January compared with 700 who returned to Iraq.\10\ The 
International Organization for Migration estimated that as of 
late February the number of new displacements remained somewhat 
above the level of returnees.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\ Ibid. We received similar information from Syrian officials.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    For the foreseeable future most officials and Iraqis 
believe the flow of returnees is likely to be only a trickle. 
According to UNHCR, 72 percent of the returnees cited economic 
necessity or expired visas as the primary reason for 
returning,\11\ while only 14 percent of the returnees cited 
improving security. As many as 50 to 70 percent of the 
returnees were unable to return to their homes.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \11\ See, UNHCR, ``UNHCR Syria Update on Iraqi Refugees.'' February 
2008, http://www.uniraq.org/documents/UNHCR%20Syria%20Update--
04.02.08.pdf. In November 2007, the Iraqi Government began paying $800 
to refugees who returned to Iraq. Most experts agree that the vast 
majority of returnees are from Syria, where Iraqis often receive an 
exit visa prohibiting their return.
    \12\ 70 percent according to a UNHCR official in early February; 50 
percent according to an IOM official in late February.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In February, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 
Antonio Guterres said, ``We have clear criteria for the 
promotion of returns--those criteria are not met by the 
situation in Iraq now.'' \13\ This view is strongly held among 
humanitarian relief professionals, and we concur. Effective 
repatriation requires significant planning to ensure that 
returnees have access to housing, jobs, and the like. Most of 
all, it requires a stable security environment, which is 
lacking in Iraq. Large-scale Iraqi repatriation in the present 
conditions not only endangers the lives of returnees, it risks 
reigniting sectarian conflicts.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\ United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian 
Affairs, ``SYRIA: Not safe enough for Iraqi refugees to return--UNHCR 
chief,'' February 15, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The majority of Iraqis we met expressed no desire to return 
to Iraq anytime soon, if ever.\14\ The psychological wounds are 
still fresh and the sense of loss profound--of home and 
material livelihood, of community, and of a connection to Iraq. 
Many feel they have nothing to return to; others have concluded 
that the security situation remains too tenuous and uncertain. 
Militia groups still operate with impunity and many refugees 
question whether security gains can be sustained. Because of 
sectarian cleansing, many feel that they will never be able to 
return to their old homes. We heard reports of Iraqis who had 
been killed upon their return home. As one Iraqi put it, ``My 
family in Iraq says it's not time to return. We have nowhere to 
return to. Our home has been overtaken by militias.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\ The FAFO study found that 58 percent of all Iraqi refugees in 
Jordan--and 72 percent of those who had registered with UNHCR--had no 
intention of returning to Iraq. The lower the household wealth the more 
resistance there was to returning; nearly 79 percent of the poorest 
quintile of Iraqis did not intend to return. Of those who expressed 
some desire to return, fewer than 4 percent expected to return within 
the next year and 95 percent expected to return only when the 
``situation allows for it.'' See FAFO, ``Iraqis in Jordan 2007: Their 
Number and Characteristics,'' http://www.fafo.no/ais/middeast/jordan/
IJ.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       The Humanitarian Response

    For the foreseeable future, only a minority of Iraqis will 
return home. Barring dramatic changes in resettlement patterns, 
less than 5 percent appear likely to be resettled in the West. 
Thus, the majority of refugees will remain, for now, where they 
are, mostly in Syria and Jordan. Addressing their needs and 
relieving the pressure on the host governments will require a 
more sustained and coordinated international humanitarian 
response.
    Jordan and Syria represent different environments for 
humanitarian relief. Jordan has excellent relations with the 
United States and other donor countries. As a longtime 
recipient of American and other bilateral foreign assistance, 
Jordan has a relatively good capacity for coordination of 
assistance with the various donors. The United Nations and many 
international and nongovernmental organizations are working in 
Jordan. On the other hand, given its large Palestinian refugee 
population, Jordan is cautious about taking steps that might 
suggest permanent integration of the Iraqi population. Iraqi 
children were only allowed to attend school beginning in 
September 2007, and most refugees have no legal status in 
Jordan.\15\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \15\ See footnote 3.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Nonetheless, there has been an encouraging evolution 
towards pragmatism in Jordan's approach. When it closed its 
borders in early 2007, Jordan was hesitant to even acknowledge 
that it had a refugee problem. Since then, it has become more 
open to international humanitarian assistance efforts for 
Iraqis, so long as they do not lead to the creation of parallel 
systems of social services. This means that while geographic 
areas with high concentrations of Iraqis can be targeted, 
humanitarian benefits must be available to both Jordanians and 
Iraqis alike.
    Syria has been relatively accommodating to the Iraqi 
refugee population. It has roughly three times the number of 
refugees as Jordan and the refugees are generally in worse 
economic condition. Even now, although the borders are closed 
to most Iraqis, Syria remains more accessible to Iraqis than 
other countries in the region.
    However, Syria's extreme political isolation and the nature 
of the ruling regime greatly hamper international humanitarian 
efforts. No direct American bilateral assistance programs exist 
in Syria, and European donors have their own concerns about 
dealing directly with Syria. Its civil society is extremely 
limited and tightly controlled. Religious charities are able to 
perform limited humanitarian work, but Syria poses an extremely 
difficult environment for international nongovernmental 
organizations to operate in.\16\ As a result, there are few 
international humanitarian organizations operating beyond the 
United Nations system.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \16\ There is some hope that a long-awaited memorandum of 
understanding announced during our visit between the Syrian Government 
and a number international nongovernmental organizations, including one 
American organization, will finally allow them to begin to be more 
active.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    International attention to the crisis began in earnest with 
the April 2007 UNHCR conference on Iraqi refugees and 
internally displaced persons held in Geneva, Switzerland. In 
2007, UNHCR budgets in Jordan and Syria increased by 
approximately a factor of ten, to more than $70 million for the 
two countries, not counting additional emergency appeals for 
health and education. This growth continues--the Department of 
State estimates that almost $900 million has been requested for 
emergency humanitarian appeals for Iraqi refugees regionally 
and internally displaced persons within Iraq in 2008.\17\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \17\ The emergency appeals consists of $261m for UNHCR, $209m for 
other U.N. agencies, $93m for the International Committee of the Red 
Cross, $208m for other non-U.N. international organizations, including 
the International Organization for Migration, and $120m for 
nongovernmental organizations. Source: Department of State.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    But humanitarian assistance can only be provided for those 
willing to accept it, and only a small fraction of refugees 
have registered with UNHCR for humanitarian assistance. Because 
most Iraqis are in hiding, the actual needs of the refugee 
community far exceed the level of humanitarian services 
actually delivered. There is an inherent tension in the appeals 
process. On the one hand, appeals create expectations for 
donors, and UNHCR is acutely aware that the expectations will 
be hard to meet. On the other hand, emergency appeals test the 
willingness of donors, and international organizations are 
concerned that programs will be underfunded. Some officials 
privately admit that the emergency appeals are based, in part, 
on ``what the donor market will bear'' rather than the 
anticipated needs of the refugees.
    Protection: In Jordan and Syria, full-fledged efforts are 
underway by UNHCR to register Iraqi refugees (for a renewable 
period of 6 months to provide for better monitoring), provide 
benefits, and resettle the most vulnerable. UNHCR's protection 
efforts for Iraqi refugees have been focused on three key 
areas: Protection from forcible returns, nonpenalization for 
illegal entry, and access to basic services. The humanitarian 
services offered to refugees include food, health services, 
stipends for the neediest, and legal advocacy. As of February 
2008, UNHCR had registered 50,000 Iraqis in Jordan and 170,000 
in Syria.\18\ In Jordan, reregistration outpaces new 
registrations, while in Syria, the registrations continue at a 
rapid rate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \18\ Jordan and Syria are not signatories of the 1951 United 
Nations Refugee Convention, so UNHCR registration does not carry formal 
legal protections from the host government. UNHCR does have memoranda 
of understanding with both countries and the 6-month renewable 
registration allows UNHCR better access to the refugees, provides 
information about the community as a whole, and allows for individual 
cases to be tracked.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The assistance is appreciated by refugees and is having a 
significant impact for those accepting it. As one humanitarian 
worker put it, ``the level of discontent has stabilized'' and 
several Iraqis noted that their personal situations had 
improved markedly as a result of the assistance. It is hoped 
that continuing expansion of humanitarian assistance in both 
countries will draw increasing levels of registration. However, 
large numbers of Iraqis are so fearful of exposure to 
government authorities and deportation that they do not take 
advantage of the assistance benefits potentially available to 
them. As long as their status prevents them from working 
legally, their frustration will continue to increase. As the 
principal nexus between the refugees and international 
assistance efforts, UNHCR is working with Jordan and Syria to 
ensure availability of protection.
    Education: A large focus of U.S. and U.N. efforts in both 
Jordan and Syria has been on increasing Iraqi children's school 
attendance. In July 2007, a $129 million UNHCR-UNICEF joint 
appeal was launched to get Iraqi refugee children into schools. 
Syrian schools have been open to Iraqi children, and Iraqi 
families with children in Syrian schools can register with the 
Syrian Government for 1-year visas. In Jordan, Iraqi children 
without legal residency did not have access to schools until 
September 2007.
    Iraqi enrollment rates, reflecting the confidence refugees 
feel in publicly asserting themselves, are a useful proxy 
indicator of their emotional well-being and sense of security. 
Although there are thought to be as many as 500,000 school age 
children among the refugee population in the two countries, 
only about 25,000 Iraqi children are in schools in Jordan and 
45,000 in Syria. Iraqis cite grave concerns that a ``lost 
generation'' of uneducated and undereducated youth is being 
created that will be ill-prepared to be economically 
productive.
    Certainly, psychological trauma and the fear of deportation 
are important factors in the low enrollment numbers. But Iraqi 
refugees also cite host community intimidation and child labor. 
Although school is free in both Syria and Jordan, for some 
Iraqi families the indirect costs, including uniforms, school 
supplies, and transportation, are prohibitive.
    Iraqi children's problems do not end once they arrive in 
school. There are linguistic differences between the Iraqi and 
Levantine Arabic dialects, different curricula, and 
difficulties caused by the fact that Iraqi children have often 
been out of school for extended periods of time. Iraqi children 
can face severe ostracism by their local classmates, sometimes 
to the point of withdrawing from school. One mother told us 
that a teacher had publicly ridiculed her daughter for being a 
Shiite after the execution of Saddam Hussein. Unless teachers 
are trained and sensitized to the challenges facing Iraqi 
children, efforts to encourage greater participation in schools 
will be unlikely to succeed.
    Health: Both Jordan and Syria have, in principle, opened 
their primary health care systems to Iraqi refugees, but 
government officials admit that Iraqis cannot depend on the 
public systems. The Syrian Ministry of Health reported that 
because the government does not make distinctions among their 
``Arab brothers,'' it does not keep statistics on the number of 
Iraqis seeking medical treatment at the 2,100 health clinics 
and hospitals throughout the country.\19\ In Jordan there is 
better data on the refugees' access to medical assistance, 
although more information is needed regarding the health needs 
for refugees of both countries.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \19\ It seems likely that the Syrian Government would, in fact, 
have data on such a closely watched population.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    With the increase of humanitarian assistance for refugees, 
primary health care access improved significantly in 2007 for 
refugees in both Syria and Jordan. Private health care clinics 
have been established in the past year by nongovernmental 
organizations and charitable organizations in Jordan, and by 
the Syrian Red Crescent in Syria, where nongovernmental 
organizations are far more restricted. In both countries, these 
facilities provide free, or nearly free, primary health care 
assistance for refugees, as well as for locals.
    Nonetheless, the health needs of the Iraqi population 
remain significant. Access to secondary health care is limited 
and the costs are generally prohibitive. Health professionals 
in the two countries cite chronic diseases such as 
hypertension, diabetes, and cancer as significant concerns. 
Although the prevalence of these diseases is difficult to 
quantify, it is beyond the scope of the primary health care 
clinics to systemically treat them. The Iraqi refugee 
population also suffers from a high prevalence of psychological 
ailments, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical 
depression, which the Jordanian and Syrian health care systems 
are not equipped to treat properly. Pharmaceutical costs, even 
for generic drugs, are expensive and modern medical procedures 
such as dialysis and cancer treatment are not widely available. 
Emergency obstetrics are often classified as secondary, rather 
than primary, health treatments.
    Food: The United Nations estimates that the number of 
Iraqis in Syria with critical food shortages increased five-
fold between December 2006 and December 2007, to approximately 
30,000. The food situation in Jordan is less dire, but public 
health professionals in Jordan reported some evidence of 
malnutrition among Iraqi children. Food assistance has been 
increasing. Since 2006, the World Food Programme (WFP), the 
food assistance agency of the United Nations, has distributed 
food to Iraqi refugees in Syria every 2 months, with the United 
States providing about a quarter of the commodities 
distributed. The vast majority of registered refugees in Syria 
receive food distributions, and WFP hopes to increase the reach 
of the program to 350,000 refugees by the end of the year. To 
accomplish this goal it will require a substantial increase in 
donor support.

                       U.S. Humanitarian Efforts

    American leadership is essential to sustain and expand the 
international humanitarian response to this refugee crisis. 
Much of the international community believes that the crisis is 
a result of the U.S. intervention in Iraq. It was clear in our 
meetings with foreign diplomats that many donors remain 
unconvinced that the United States gives Iraqi refugees a 
sufficiently high priority.
    Currently, there is no coherent strategic vision at the 
highest levels of the U.S. Government with respect to refugees 
and internally displaced persons. No one has responsibility for 
ensuring an overall humanitarian response and strategy within 
the U.S. Government, with the United Nations, and with the 
international community.
    On assistance, the administration has requested 
insufficient funding for Iraqi refugees and internally 
displaced persons. In fiscal years 2005 and 2006, the 
administration requested no funding for Iraqi refugees, 
although Congress provided $67 million and $75 million, 
respectively. In fiscal year 2007, the administration requested 
$90 million in supplemental appropriations, a level that was 
increased to $224 million by Congress. In the current fiscal 
year, $274 million has been provided, although an additional 
fiscal year 2008 supplemental request of $30 million is 
pending.\20\ The fiscal year 2009 Federal budget request notes 
that ``the administration will continue to review humanitarian 
assistance needs, including costs related to Iraqi displaced 
persons and Afghan refugees, as needs become better known.'' 
\21\ However, Department of State officials have privately 
admitted that the fiscal year 2009 request includes no funding 
for Iraqi refugees or internally displaced persons, meaning 
that the Congress will need to add additional funds or the next 
administration will need to request supplemental funding.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \20\ Source: Analysis provided for the authors by Rhoda Margesson, 
Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy at Congressional 
Research Service, March 2008. Funding for Iraqi refugees and IDPs comes 
through a number of funding streams, including Migration and Refugee 
Assistance, Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance, International 
Disaster and Famine Assistance, P.L. 480 Title II Food Assistance, 
Economic Support Funds, and Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Funds.
    \21\ Source: The Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account of 
the Department of State's Function 150 international affairs budget 
request to Congress, FY2009, http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/c6112.htm.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) at 
the Department of State is the lead U.S. Government agency for 
refugees. The majority of PRM's funding goes toward the 
operating budgets and emergency appeals of international 
organizations such as UNHCR and the International Committee of 
the Red Cross. The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) 
within the Agency for International Development takes the lead 
on internally displaced persons and works directly with 
partners on the ground--contractors, nongovernmental and 
international organizations--typically through a competitive 
bidding process. Greater structural cohesion between the two 
offices is needed. While the cooperation between the two 
agencies is good, there is the potential for coordination 
problems, especially as populations under each agency's mandate 
are sometimes blurred, and it can be difficult to distinguish 
among refugees, internally displaced persons, and returnees. 
Additionally, because OFDA is an implementing agency, there is 
some concern that appeals targeting Iraqi internally displaced 
persons directly could be underfunded.
    In Syria, the United States limited and poor relations with 
Syria are undermining the humanitarian response. One 
nongovernmental organization told us it would not accept U.S. 
Government money because it would compromise their work with 
the Syrian Government.

                              Resettlement

    There is a clear perception in Amman and Damascus that the 
United States has not committed sufficient resources to 
resettlement given the magnitude of the problem. As of March 
2008, approximately 4,900 Iraqi refugees had been resettled in 
the United States since the war began in 2003. By contrast, 
Sweden, a country with about 3 percent of the population of the 
United States, admitted nearly twice that number of asylum 
seekers in 2006 alone and received 18,500 asylum applications 
in 2007.\22\ The administration's promises to resettle 7,000 
Iraqi refugees in the United States in fiscal year 2007 and 
12,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal year 2008 have created 
expectations, particularly among the refugees, and the United 
States has an obligation to meet those expectations. The fact 
that the U.S. Government resettled only 1,608 Iraqis in fiscal 
year 2007 while more than 20,000 cases were referred by the 
United Nations has created deep skepticism about American 
efforts with the international community host governments, and 
the refugees.\23\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \22\ Admittances of Iraqi refugees to the United States are as 
follows: FY03: 294, FY04: 65, FY05: 198, FY06: 202, FY07: 1608, FY08 
(through 2/20): 1646. Sources: FY03--FY06: Department of State, Annual 
Proposed Refugee Admissions Reports to Congress, http://www.state.gov/
g/prm/refadm/rls/rpts/. FY07-FY08, Department of State, Fact Sheet on 
United States Humanitarian Assistance for Displaced Iraqis, February 
25, 2008, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/feb/101274.htm. For 
Sweden figure, see Shelly Emling, ``Sweden debating its open door for 
Iraqis,'' Cox News Service, February 10, 2008. The comparison with 
Sweden is for illustrative purposes only; there is an obligation under 
the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees to accept asylum seekers, whereas 
resettlement is discretionary.
    \23\ According to U.N officials and refugee experts, there are 
thought to be roughly 100,000
Iraqi refugees throughout the region for whom resettlement may be 
necessary. UNHCR defines eleven categories of refugees who are 
prioritized for resettlement. For more information on these categories 
and on UNHCR's resettlement referrals, see UNHCR, ``Resettlement of 
Iraqi Refugees,'' March 12, 2007. http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/
vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=
SUBSITES&id=45f80f9d2.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Departments of State and Homeland Security have senior 
coordinators for refugees working mostly on resettlement 
issues. Their appointments have corresponded with increases in 
the rate of resettlements to the United States. However, 
decisions on key policy issues have been delayed, sometimes for 
months, and the refugees have suffered as a result.
    The Department of State has not sent permanent senior staff 
to either Jordan or Syria to oversee the refugee effort, as 
required by law, and the Department of Homeland Security has 
not hired additional staff or permanently stationed staff in 
the region to expedite processing. Within the United Nations 
system, there is frustration that the United States has not put 
more emphasis on resettlement numbers. One U.N. official was 
very blunt: ``What your government needs to understand is that 
resettlement is about protection for the most vulnerable.''
    Implementing the New Refugee Law: More than 250 
interpreters working for the U.S Government or U.S. contractors 
have been killed since 2003 and thousands more have risked 
their lives. In February, the United States temporarily ceased 
processing special immigrant visas for these Iraqis, because 
the annual quota of 500 had been exceeded.\24\ However, the FY 
2008 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 110-181), signed into law 
January 28, 2008, authorizes 5,000 special immigrant visas 
yearly for Iraqis and their families who have worked for the 
U.S. Government in Iraq.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \24\ Walter Pincus, ``Visas for War Zone Translators Halted,'' 
Washington Post, February 29, 2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The law requires in-country processing in Baghdad, 
Damascus, and Amman for Iraqis with a close tie to the United 
States and special immigrant visas for Iraqis who have worked 
with our government for a year. It also requires the Secretary 
of State to appoint senior refugee coordinators in each embassy 
to coordinate visa processing and address other needs of 
refugees. The new refugee law requires an assessment of 
videoconferencing to conduct interviews, an option that would 
require more extensive use of consular officers.
    At the time of our visit, that legislation had been sent to 
the President, but had not yet been signed it into law. To our 
surprise, the American Embassies in both Amman and Damascus 
were unfamiliar with many of the specific requirements of the 
law. At both locations, junior officers are responsible for the 
refugee portfolios. Two mid-level positions will be created in 
Amman, but they are not scheduled to be filled until summer 
2008. A decision had not been made regarding Damascus.
    Despite repeated requests from Congress regarding financial 
requirements necessary to implement the relevant sections of 
the new law, embassy staff had not been asked to identify what 
additional resources would be necessary. The Department of 
State has not formally identified these needs to Congress. 
Likewise, despite a considerable backlog of cases referred for 
resettlement, the Department of Homeland Security has not 
stationed permanent staff in the region.

                            Recommendations

Recommendation 1: White House Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraqi 
        Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons
    To coordinate our overall policy for displaced Iraqis and 
assistance within our government and with the international 
community, the President should appoint a White House 
Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee and Internally 
Displaced Persons.

   A White House Humanitarian Coordinator would be 
        responsible for outlining the United States overall 
        policy response to the displacement crisis in Iraq and 
        the region. He or she must have the authority to 
        resolve interagency disagreements on policy.
   The Coordinator would ensure unity of effort in U.S. 
        funding and increase confidence in the Congress and the 
        international community that priorities are being 
        established in a methodical way and that a coherent 
        strategy exists to consider refugees and internally 
        displaced persons in tandem and to coordinate efforts 
        effectively.
   The Coordinator should have a mandate to engage with 
        the international community, host nations, and the 
        Government of Iraq on long-term strategies for managing 
        the crisis. This would include soliciting support from 
        the international donor community and working toward 
        better coordination of efforts, both between donors and 
        within the United Nations system.
   The Coordinator should also work to increase donor 
        confidence by addressing legitimate concerns about 
        international humanitarian efforts. We heard 
        frustration from donors that there is insufficient 
        coordination between United Nations agencies, that 
        emergency appeals have not been adequately transparent 
        or consolidated, and that better data on the size and 
        socio-economic profile of the refugee communities are 
        needed. The Coordinator would complement the work being 
        done on resettlement by the refugee coordinators at the 
        Departments of State and Homeland Security.
Recommendation 2: Funding
    The United States should fund 50 percent of all United 
Nations and other international organizations' appeals for 
Iraqi refugees, internally displaced persons, and for other 
vulnerable Iraqis.

   In 2008, a 50 percent commitment would amount to 
        approximately $500 million, somewhat less than one-half 
        of one percent of the costs of annual U.S. military 
        operations in Iraq.\25\ Providing this level of 
        assistance on an ongoing basis would match our 
        resources with our moral obligation to assist those 
        suffering and relieve the burden on host governments.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \25\ According to data obtained from the Department of State, the 
sum of all international emergency appeals for 2008 related to Iraqi 
refugees and IDPs is less than $1 billion. The Congressional Research 
Service estimates the U.S. military costs in Iraq at roughly $10 
billion per month.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recommendation 3: U.S. Resettlement Policy
    The United States Government needs to put a high priority 
on meeting its fiscal year 2008 resettlement commitments.

   The United States Government, and the Department of 
        Homeland Security in particular, needs to respond to 
        legitimate security concerns. But we cannot allow fear 
        to stand in the way of our obligation to resettle the 
        most vulnerable.
   Although the number of resettlement arrivals to the 
        United States has increased in recent months, meeting 
        the fiscal year 2008 goal of 12,000 will be difficult 
        if the Departments of State and Homeland Security are 
        unwilling to think creatively and consider implementing 
        alternative mechanisms. Such mechanisms include video 
        conference interviews, third-country processing, and 
        greater use of State consular officers to supplement 
        the work of DHS adjudicators. In particular, processing 
        in Syria has been problematic. The Syrian Government 
        has been very slow in granting visas to DHS 
        adjudicators, and the lack of access for adjudicators 
        has affected the pace of resettlement adjudication. 
        United Nations officials and humanitarian relief 
        experts believe that Syria is the priority country for 
        resettlement. Unless more effective resettlement 
        methods are employed, the Syrian Government will 
        continue to retain too much control over the refugee 
        program.
   The recent halt in processing special immigrant 
        visas underscores the need to ensure a smooth 
        transition in the programs. Congress needs to make a 
        technical adjustment to the new special immigrant visa 
        law to enable the administration to clear out the 
        backlog in the existing program by issuing some of the 
        quota of 5,000 visas during the current fiscal year. 
        The administration should issue policy guidance for the 
        new special immigrant visas without delay.
   The administration should also provide information 
        to Congress about resource needs to process refugees 
        and special immigrant visas more expeditiously. If the 
        Department of State needs additional consular officers 
        to process special immigrant visas or implement the 
        refugee provisions, they should be hired immediately. 
        If the Department of Homeland Security needs additional 
        resources to hire more adjudicators for the Refugee 
        Corps, they should be provided immediately. 
        Congressional efforts to add funding to the DHS budget 
        for adjudicators should be supported.
Recommendation 4: Legal Protection
    The regularization of the status of Iraqis in Jordan and 
Syria should be made a first-order priority for American 
diplomats.

   As long as Iraqis live in fear of deportation and 
        are prohibited from working in Jordan, Syria, and other 
        host countries, they will be increasingly dependent on 
        the international community's humanitarian efforts. 
        Easing labor restrictions will not be decisions that 
        either Jordan or Syria makes lightly, but both 
        countries should be encouraged to view this matter as 
        linked to their own security.
   Jordan and Syria should consider offering temporary 
        protected status or some form of guest worker program 
        for Iraqi refugees. Allowing Iraqis to work will reduce 
        the economic pressure and reduce risks of radicalizing 
        the Iraqi population. Jordan already has hundreds of 
        thousands of guest workers.\26\ Over time these jobs 
        could be shifted to Iraqis. In February 2008, Lebanon 
        announced a registration program that gives Iraqis a 3-
        month grace period to regularize their status in 
        Lebanon and the possibility to obtain work permits 
        through sponsoring employers. This program could 
        provide a model for Jordan and Syria.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \26\ Jordan Times, ``Work Permit Fees Raised to JD180 for Arab 
Nations,'' December 19, 1999
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recommendation 5: Addressing the Problem in Syria
    American diplomats in Damascus should be empowered to 
engage more vigorously with Syrian officials on Iraqi refugee, 
resettlement, and other issues.

   Though American diplomats in Syria have a narrow 
        mandate to engage on humanitarian issues, they have 
        been severely constrained by the Bush administration in 
        their ability to engage with Syrian officials, 
        undermining the United States ability to develop 
        effective responses. Their mandate should be expanded. 
        Skillful diplomacy must allow for continued pressure on 
        Syria for its violations of Lebanese sovereignty and 
        support for terrorism, while simultaneously allowing 
        for a more robust engagement on the issue of Iraqi 
        refugees.
   We met with senior officials in the Syrian 
        Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health and Education 
        during our visit. One of these ministries apparently 
        had not had any interaction with American diplomats 
        since 2005. In varying degrees, these officials 
        admitted that their capacity to deal with Iraqis 
        refugees was limited, and they expressed openness to 
        enhanced U.S.-Syrian cooperation on the issue of Iraqi 
        refugees. It is difficult to assess the sincerity of 
        these claims, but there is no convincing reason that 
        they should not be probed.
   Bilateral American assistance to Syria is not an 
        option. However, substantial assistance can and should 
        continue to be provided to Iraqi refugees in Syria 
        through United Nations and humanitarian assistance 
        programs of nongovernmental organizations.
Recommendation 6: Returnees
    Iraqis should not be encouraged or pressured to return to 
Iraq while conditions there remain tenuous.

   Under no circumstances should Iraqi refugees feel 
        pressured--legally or economically--by the Syrian, 
        Jordanian, or Iraqi Governments to return home 
        prematurely. The hasty return of large numbers of 
        returnees--without security, housing or employment--
        could have serious negative consequences. The 
        administration must work vigorously against any such 
        effort.
   It is important for the international community to 
        understand that the Iraqi refugee problem is not 
        winding down. Premature talk of return threatens to 
        ignore the fact that humanitarian needs in Jordan and 
        Syria are expected to grow with time. Rising economic 
        pressures are likely to create greater needs in Jordan 
        and Syria in the months and years to come.
Recommendation 7: Schools
    The international community and host governments must be 
more proactive and innovative in developing solutions to meet 
the educational needs of Iraqi refugee children.

   Priority has rightly been given to getting Iraqi 
        refugee children back in school. However, the United 
        States, the United Nations, host governments, and the 
        international community must be more proactive and 
        innovative in developing solutions to meet the 
        educational needs. While there have been some 
        successes, the vast majority of Iraqi children remain 
        outside the local school systems in Amman and Damascus. 
        A number of steps can be taken on this issue:

     Iraqi teachers and volunteers could be used to 
            supplement the activities of local education 
            professionals. Having Iraqi assistants in schools 
            and classrooms with high percentages of Iraqis 
            could help to reduce tensions between Iraqi and 
            local children, raise the confidence of Iraqi 
            children, and help with linguistic differences.
     Training could be provided for Jordanian and 
            Syrian teachers and administrators to sensitize 
            them to the concerns of Iraqis.
     Counseling services for Iraqi students could be 
            expanded.
     More vigorous public information campaigns could 
            be considered to welcome Iraqi children to Syrian 
            and Jordanian schools and to make clear that 
            enrolling will not increase the likelihood of 
            detention or expulsion.
     Vocational and remedial education could be 
            implemented, especially for older Iraqi students 
            who have spent several years out of school.
     At the university level, thought could be given to 
            scholarship programs for refugees both in Jordan 
            and Syria, as well as in the United States and 
            internationally.
Recommendation 8: The Government of Iraq
    Iraq should devote more resources to internally displaced 
persons within its borders and allocate more resources so that 
Iraqi embassies can be more responsive to the needs of refugee 
communities.

   The Government of Iraq should devote significantly 
        more resources to humanitarian assistance for 
        internally displaced Iraqis and Iraqis in the region. 
        This assistance should be provided unconditionally 
        through United Nations emergency appeals. At the April 
        2007 UNHCR conference on Iraqi refugees, the Government 
        of Iraq pledged $25 million to help Iraqi refugees. The 
        amount was relatively small, but hopes were high in the 
        U.S. Government that the decision marked the beginning 
        of a more active policy on refugees. Yet, as of January 
        2008 visit, Syria had not received the funds. Jordan 
        apparently decided to return them because Iraq insisted 
        on working outside the United Nations framework.
   The United States and the wider international 
        community should partner with the Iraqi Ministry of 
        Migration and Displacement to strengthen its capacity 
        and ensure that adequate systems are developed to 
        provide security, housing, financial assistance and 
        employment for Iraqis refugees and internally displaced 
        persons who choose to return to their homes.
   Iraqi embassies need to be more responsive to 
        refugee needs. A number of services for refugees could 
        be administered at Iraqi embassies and consular 
        offices, although international support may be 
        necessary. Such services could include:
   Payment of pensions and/or stipends in Jordan and 
        Syria, rather than Iraq.
   Legal support.
   Reduced fees for passports for refugees with limited 
        financial resources.


                               conclusion


    The Iraqi refugee and displaced person crisis will not end 
for many years, and millions of Iraqis are suffering 
enormously. The United States Government's response to the 
crisis and its efforts to minimize the suffering has been slow 
and halting. The United States has a unique obligation to make 
this issue a much higher priority. We hope the recommendations 
in this report can result in a more proactive and effective 
response by our Government.