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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

“We Are Crying for Help”

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | May 27th, 2008 | Comments 1 Comment »

“All Iraqis in Jordan today are refugees,” Fr. Raymond Moussalli shrugged his shoulders and smiled, resigned, in response to my asking how many of his 12,000 congregants are refugees. His church provides assistance for persecuted Iraqi Christians (www.ChaldeanJordan.org).

“Guests” are what Jordan originally called Iraqis who spilled over the border following the Gulf War and the 12 ensuing years of sanctions and Sadaam’s regime. The host country has resisted creating any temporary services that could lead to permanency, as has occurred with Palestinian refugees.

According to the UNHCR, between 450,000 and 500,000 Iraqis have taken refuge in Jordan. In this country of 6 million people, where fuel and food prices have jumped 300% during the last 3 years, where the country’s finance minister has estimated this year’s inflation rate to be the highest in 18 years, where the official unemployment rate runs 15% (the unofficial rate is a staggering 30%!), that’s proportionately comparable to increasing the United States’ population by 25 million people – another Texas.

Iraqi refugees are not allowed to work, and only this past school year have been allowed to attend public schools. Aid is sporadic, provided by the government, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, international non-profits and neighborhood churches.

Only 50,000 refugees have registered with the UNHCR, according to Dr. Mazin Aisaqa, an independent aide worker who helps coordinate Iraqis’ medical care. Some Iraqis find it humiliating to admit their new “refugee” status, others circumvent the UN and apply directly for immigration to their desired country.

Until August 2004, the United Nations wasn’t even registering Iraqis; its position was that “this is a liberation war, not an occupation war,” according to Dr. Aisaqa.

“Jordan is the conduit to Europe. When you hear about Iraqi refugees in Jordan, usually you hear about Iraqis leaving Jordan,” said Aisaqa. “80% of Iraqis consider their stay (here) temporary.

“The vast majority of refugees are vulnerable populations: single mothers, widows, children, the elderly. Most are women and children.”

“More than 150,000 Iraqis in Jordan have become completely dependent on international aid,” announced a press release issued today by the UNHCR. Citing rising food and fuel prices and the recent end to the government’s fuel subsidies, the UNHCR has reduced its food packages and notes that its monthly financial assistance to 2,200 families no longer covers basic necessities. (www.unhcr.org/news/NEWS/483c1f2b4.html)

“We are crying for help,” said Aisaqa.

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One Response to ““We Are Crying for Help””

  1. Barbara Says:

    Interesting story. Thanks for your journalistic approach and straightforward writing.

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