Monday, March 02, 2009

Iraqi refugees return to the Middle East to escape poverty in US

The Salt Lake Tribune has a fascinating story today about Iraqi refugees. Flushed out of their country due to the danger and violence many have settled here in the US. Now, many are returning to Iraq or the middle east, exposing the problems with the current refugee system.

Reporter Julia Lyon details the complaints the refugees and human right organizations have against the refugee program.

As human rights organizations call for aid and resettlement for millions of Iraqi refugees, some who are exasperated by America's refugee system are going home or attempting to return to other countries in the Middle East. They feel abandoned by federal policies that offer limited and brief financial support and leave many refugees living in poverty.

Refugees planning to leave acknowledge they may be less safe in Iraq, but believe they will be better able to afford food, pay rent and receive medical care.

Educated Iraqis eager to re-establish their middle-class lifestyle are
making flaws in the U.S. resettlement system more apparent, while the troubled economy is compounding them, critics charge.

"They're brought out of one crisis into another," said Bob Carey, the chairman of Refugee Council USA, a coalition of refugee advocacy groups. "It's not the type of welcome the U.S. refugee program was envisioned to provide."

From the U.S. State Department to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which is not recommending large-scale return, officials say they have heard the stories of Iraqis returning but believe it to be more a trickle than a flood. The number is not tracked.

About a dozen Utah Iraqis have left or are on the verge of leaving for Iraq or other Middle Eastern countries. For some, Utah's Muslim community has collected donations for plane tickets.

An Iraqi family with seven children living in Utah returned to Iraq a few weeks ago. Another Iraqi single mother is planning to leave for Syria soon. "We feel like we're human beings there," said Mohammed Abd, an Iraqi refugee whose family briefly considered leaving Utah. "We feel like here we are mice."

Today, the government allots $850 per refugee to set up households, but the agencies take up to half for administrative costs and the remainder can disappear in a family's first month. Depending on a refugee's family size or employment, additional cash assistance may be available for a few more months. Refugees are also eligible for the benefits that all poor Americans can receive such as food stamps.

No comments: