In response to mounting international pressure, the United States has pledged to grant asylum to 7,000 Iraq war refugees, prioritizing the “most vulnerable,” including women and children. The announcement came after the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) released estimates that 2 million Iraqis have fled since the war began in 2003, with another 40,000-50,000 leaving each month. An additional 1.8 million have been internally displaced. Up to now, only 600 Iraqis have been granted U.S. asylum.
The majority of displaced Iraqis are women and children, reports New York-based NGO Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and they face particular dangers. “There are already reports of Iraqi women and young girls forced into prostitution to survive,” says executive director Carolyn Makinson. “It’s time to make assisting displaced Iraqi women, children, and youth a global priority.”
UNHCR head Antonio Guterres called the U.S.’s pledges “a good start,” but added, ‘The dimension of the problem is so huge that nothing is ever enough.”
In Jordan, for example, a nation of only 6 million, an influx of 750,000 refugees has overwhelmed social services. A spokesperson for the Jordanian government said in reaction to the U.S. announcement, “Seven thousand Iraqi refugees is just 1 percent of the number we have.”