February 8, 2007
Contact: Lynne Weil, 202-225-5021
Lantos Welcomes Establishment of Task Force on Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons But Argues More Must Be Done to Prevent Escalating Humanitarian Crisis
Washington, DC -- Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, made the following statement in response to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s establishment of a senior-level task force on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons:
“I welcome Secretary’s Rice’s establishment of a senior-level task force to address the mounting problem of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing the ongoing violence and unstable security situation in Iraq. But the Administration must act more quickly and decisively to prevent a worsening humanitarian situation there. The unclassified portion of the recently-released National Intelligence Estimate emphasized that Iraq faces a grave humanitarian crisis if its ethno-sectarian divisions are not resolved. The report also found that significant population displacement, both within Iraq and into neighboring countries, has diminished Iraq’s capacity to address its reconstruction challenges and strained the capacities of the neighboring countries.
“The Administration’s response to date had been feeble, despite warnings from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which estimates as many as two million Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, primarily in Syria and Jordan, and another 1.7 million displaced within Iraq. The Administration is only seeking $50 million for Iraqi refugees in the emergency funding requests for the next two years, despite calls from the refugee assistance community that $250 million is needed to address the crisis properly. This new force needs to be energetic, and to be the catalyst for the development of an Administration-wide strategy to respond to Iraqi refugee crisis. Congress is eager to work with the Administration to prevent a humanitarian emergency in Iraq.”