The Iraqi Refugee Crisis



There is a growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. As the question of troop withdrawal becomes more about "when" not "if," Americans must face the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world- and we must do something about it.

Click here to donate to help Iraqi women and children refugees and internally displaced persons.


War is hell, and this hell can be especially deep for mothers. Less than $600 million (less than the $720m the U.S. spends each day to wage the war) has been slated for emergency relief, basic health services and education for the millions of Iraqis who have been forced from their homes and are now living abroad or are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).


CODEPINK is honored to be partnering with the "Collateral Repair Project," a grassroots movement created to provide support to the milions of Iraqis who had to leave behind their homes and crumbling communities and are trying to feed, clothe and educate their families in the wake of a violent occupation. Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK cofounder will be traveling to Syria and Jordan to meet with our partners at Collateral Repair Project and other groups to share stories and see what we as Americans can do to stand in solidarity with our Iraqi sisters and brothers. Read the first of Medea's report back from her trip here.


The Geneva Conventions stipulate that,

"A force occupying territory has a duty to supply the population with food and medicine "to the fullest extent of the means available to it" (G4, art. 55). If any part of the population of an occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the occupying power shall facilitate relief by humanitarian agencies (G4, art. 59). However, the provision of assistance by humanitarian agencies does not relieve the occupying force of its responsibilities to meet the needs of the population." (Excerpt from Human Rights Watch)

Although it was predicted and became true that the US invasion would provoke a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, no one prepared for what has become the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. Today, 8 million Iraqis live in poverty and more than 15% of the population have fled their homes. More than 2 million have sought refuge in neighboring countries and an estimated 2.4 million are internally displaced. Despite urging from many different quarters that economic development and reconstruction are key to stabilizing Iraq, Iraqis are left with inadequate support from the Iraqi Government, the UN, the US or other international donors. According to the recent Testimony of Bill Frelick before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus,

"The Bush Administration has boosted its 2008 emergency request to fund the Iraq and Afghan wars to $196.4 billion, bringing the total price tag to more than $800 billion. Less than one-fifth of 1 percent of that request, $240 million-less than the amount the U.S. spends each day to wage the war-is slated for emergency relief, basic health services and education for the 4.4 million Iraqis who have been forced from their homes. While the Administration's war spending could be characterized as profligate, it has been pinching pennies when it comes to meeting the war's human costs. Its humanitarian response has not only been stingy, but prosaic."

Jordan, Syria and even provinces within Iraq have closed their doors to Iraqi refugees because of the lack of international assistance to help provide for the massive influx of Iraqis fleeing from their homes. Recent reports from the Iraqi Government, UN agencies and international NGOs all warn of the threat to Iraq's orphaned and vulnerable children.


Below are links to recent reports & studies, statistics, articles, and NGOs providing information on the current humanitarian crisis in Iraq, with special emphasis on the growing refugee crisis.

Fact Sheets

These handouts give an overview to the consequences of the U.S. invasion and occupation from an Iraqi perspective. The refugee crisis piece outlines the humanitarian catastrophe of the war, and the refugee resettlement piece talks about Iraqi families coming to the United States and tells people what they can do to support this growing community. It includes a seven-point section on the path forward.


  •  A Surge for Refugees
    New York Times Editorial, April 22, 2008
    "IT is a grave humanitarian crisis: 1.5 million Iraqi refugees living in deplorable and declining conditions in Syria and Jordan."

  • Refugees? What Refugees
    New York Times Opinion, September 27, 2007
    The I-told-you-so phase of the Iraq invasion is thankfully ending. What is needed now is consensus on American responsibility. That starts with a more open door to Iraqis in flight. Mr. President, say something.
  • Doors closing on Iraqi displaced
    BBC - October 10, 2007
    A growing number of Iraqi provinces are refusing entry to displaced people, the UN refugee agency has said. The head of the UNHCR Iraq Support Unit told the BBC up to 11 governors were restricting access because they lacked resources to look after the refugees.

Reports & Studies

  • The Human Cost of War: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis
    Testimony of Bill Frelick before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus
    Bill Frelick delivered testimony at the November 15, 2007, member briefing of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. The briefing updated Caucus members on the situation of the estimated 4.4 million Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons in the region.

  • Click here for a number of resources & reports from the Iraqi International Initiative on Refugees

  • Lack of money, visa problems prompting Iraqi refugees to return home
    IRIN reports (November 22nd) : Lack of funds and the Syrian government's refusal to renew their visas, more than the perception of improved security in Iraq, are prompting some Iraqi refugees in Syria to return to Iraq, according to personal refugee accounts and figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

  • Global Policy Forum: Iraq's Humanitarian Crisis: The international relief system has not been able to respond to the growing humanitarian challenges. International agencies have themselves faced serious problems in reaching Iraqis at risk. Iraq's humanitarian emergency has reached a crisis level that compares with some of the world's most urgent calamities.
    (This site also contains an excellent archive of recent reports and articles)

  • Iraqi Refugees: A Lot of Talk, Little Action
    Refugees International, 11/14/2007
    The situation for Iraqi refugees in the Middle East continues to deteriorate, while the scale of the crisis continues to dwarf the international response. As the number of displaced Iraqis has reached an unprecedented level - more than 4.5 million - Iraq's neighbors have increased restrictions on the refugees. These restrictions are at least partially a response to the lack of support received from the United States and other donor governments, as well as the government of Iraq itself, to lessen the tremendous burden that the host countries are assuming.

  • Oxfam Reports Growing Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq
    By Damien Cave, July 31, 2007
    Poverty, hunger and public health continue to worsen in Iraq, according to a report released Monday by Oxfam International, which says that more aid is needed from abroad and calls on the Iraqi government to decentralize the distribution of food and medical supplies.

  • Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons: A Deepening Humanitarian Crisis?
    Congressional Research Service for the People, October 3, 2007
    Summary: The humanitarian crisis many feared would take place in March 2003 as a result of the war in Iraq continues to unfold as a result of post-war insurgency and sectarian violence. It is estimated that in total (including those displaced prior to the war) there may be as many as 2 million Iraqi refugees who have fled to Jordan, Syria, and other neighboring states, and approximately 2.2 million Iraqis who have been displaced within Iraq itself. This report provides an analysis of the current crisis, including the conditions for those displaced in Iraq and the refugee situations in Syria, Jordan, and elsewhere.

  • UNICEF concerned at conditions for orphans and vulnerable children in Iraq
    AMMAN/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 22 June 2007

  • UN warns of growing humanitarian crisis in occupied Iraq
    By Kate Randall, 26 April 2007
    A new United Nations report on human rights in Iraq paints a devastating portrait of the conditions of life facing the civilian population as the US occupation enters its fifth year. The report from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) covers the period from January 1 to March 31, 2007, which includes the beginning of the Bush administration's Baghdad "surge," Operation Law and Order.

  • A Displacement Crisis
    Internal Displacement Monitoring Center ,March 30 2007
    More than 727,000 people are estimated to have been internally displaced due to sectarian and generalised violence in Iraq between February 2006 and March 2007. Together with tens of thousands more displaced by ongoing military operations, and more than one million by the abuses of the former regime of Saddam Hussein, this leads to a total of nearly 1.9 million people currently estimated to be displaced within Iraq. In addition, some 2 million Iraqis fled to neighbouring countries as of March 2007.

  • Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA)
    Online Petition in Support of the Future of Academic Freedom in Iraq
    CARA is doing considerable work to raise awareness of the plight of Iraqi academics and what can only be described as the wholesale destruction of the Iraqi education system. Over 280 Iraqi academics have been assassinated since 2003 and thousands more have fled to neighbouring countries and beyond.This petition aims to highlight the UK government's responsibility and role in safeguarding and supporting them in the immediate, to ensure they survive to fulfil their crucial role in the future reconstruction of Iraq's higher education sector.  SIGN CARA's online petition in support of Academic Freedom in Iraq.

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