26 November, 2005

In the "makes no sense" department

UN High Commissioner for Refugees says Iraq war created few refugees.
The war in Iraq caused no massive displacement... But despite the many difficulties facing Iraq's 25 million residents in the immediate aftermath of the war, most people appear ready to wait out this phase and look towards a new, vibrant post-war Iraq.
Washington Post says Syrian officials disagree:
Syrian officials say 700,000 Iraqis from various ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds have arrived since the U.S.-led invasion, far more than in any other country in the region. The flow has spiked in the past four months.
If any readers happen to be in Syria, could you please explain this discrepancy?


item (a): For ... Iraqis living abroad, including some one million asylum seekers, refugees and other Iraqis under UNHCR's protection in neighbouring countries, ... UNHCR's offices in the region are laying plans for the phased repatriation of more than half a million Iraqis once the situation stabilises. 

item (b) from wapo: Hoping to help the fleeing Iraqis without encouraging their flight, the U.N. agency arranged "temporary protection status" that prevented the Iraqis from being deported but did not trigger the financial aid and relocation assistance that goes to official refugees.

there are no refugees on a technicality? 

Posted by chromo

oops sorry, that was unclear. i'm guessing that "displacement" is a technical word that requires or precedes the declaration of official refugee status.

My best, sad, guess is that 700,000 is simply not considered "major," or "most." Both as a percentage of the population -- if I'm not mistaken, in Afghanistan, whole provinces simply hemorraghed people--and also since all numbers involving seem to get easily talked down and dismissed in this war. I mean, 100,000 civilian deaths is apparently not so major by some people's estimates either, right? Technically "most" means at least more than half, right? So you'd need 13 odd million refugees before that first UNHCR page would be wrong. Since the UNHCR is quoted in both links, my guess is that it's merely a matter of telling people what they want to hear when they want to hear it. The numbers are the real thing, and in that the two links don't seem to contradict each other, since the first one is so lacking in numerical content. 700,000 suddenly indigent Iraqis overwhelming a weak Syrian state is bad news, regardless, especially if they're also indicative of anti-insurgents being bled out of the new Iraqi state. What a mess.  

Posted by Saheli

that makes sense.

i had a hard time with a possible subtext of those two - that the UNHCR is responding to pressure from "someone" not to declare folks on the run from iraq as being long-term displaced. 

Posted by chromo

Yes, chromo, that was my point as well. It looks like a political decision on the part of UNHCR.

How many of those refugees -- I mean, um, displaced persons -- are going to go home when the U.S. withdraws and Iran is targeting air strikes within Iraq  ?  

Posted by hedgehog

another out-of-butt explanation would be the big X painted on syria by the bushies. we know what happened to UN people in iraq. there may also be a feeling that creating a legal obligation in syria through official refugee classification would put UN people in harm's way. the armed protection that might be necessary for the aid workers might be too tricky a political problem. 

Posted by chromo

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