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Iraq: Asylum

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 12 September 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what reports he has received of Syrian plans to change visa requirements for Iraqi refugees; what assessment he has made of the impact this will have on Iraqi refugees in the region; what discussions he has had with Syrian counterparts about these plans; and if he will make a statement; (155297)

(2) what estimate he has made of the number of refugees from Iraq in (a) Syria, (b) Jordan, (c) Egypt, (d) Saudi Arabia, (e) Turkey, (f) Lebanon and (g) Iran; what financial assistance the Government gave to these countries for the purpose of addressing the humanitarian needs of those refugees in each year since March 2003; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what financial assistance the Government provided to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for the purpose of addressing the problem of Iraqi refugees in each year since March 2003; and if he will make a statement.

We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and the increasing numbers of people who have been displaced due to the ongoing violence. The UN estimates that there are currently around 2 million internally displaced people in Iraq and another 2 million Iraqis externally displaced in the region.

According to UN estimates, the number of Iraqi refugees per country is as follows:


Number of Iraqi refugees


1.2-1.4 million





GCC countries (including Saudi Arabia)

Over 200,000






Over 54,000

We are continuing to play our part in ensuring that immediate needs are met. The UK has not provided any bilateral support to these Governments for assisting Iraqi refugees. Instead, we have supported internationally mandated humanitarian organisations as the best means to support and protect vulnerable Iraqi groups. So far this year, DFID has contributed £10 million to support humanitarian agencies working in Iraq and the region, and we are considering further support. Since 2003, we have contributed over £125 million for humanitarian assistance for Iraq, of which £3.25 million has been to the UNHCR (£1.75 million in 2003 and £1.5 million in 2007).

We are grateful for the considerable hospitality Syria and other countries in the region have shown by accommodating large numbers of people fleeing the violence in Iraq. However, we are concerned about the Syrian Government’s recent announcement regarding the introduction of new visa requirements for Iraqis wanting to come to the country. The UNHCR is seeking clarification on what this will entail for Iraqis already residing in Syria and those wishing to cross into Syria in the future, and we await the outcome of UNHCR’s discussions with the Government of Syria.