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Iraq: Asylum

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 12 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress has been made with the programme for funding displaced Iraqis within that country and in Syria; and if he will make a statement. (208907)

Since 2003, DFID has committed over £149 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq, £17 million of which has been allocated for this year. We have channelled our assistance to a variety of international organisations working to provide assistance to the most vulnerable people displaced inside Iraq and in the region. Support provided through these organisations includes food, water, shelter and medicine.

We are also working to promote a coordinated international effort in response to humanitarian situation, with the Government of Iraq (GoI) in the lead. The GoI has recognised it holds primary responsibility for the welfare of its people and is working to address the humanitarian situation inside the country. To that end, the GoI last week allocated $40 million to the World Food Programme, to assist in the provision of food for internally displaced people. The UK is also encouraging the GoI to take a lead in providing financial support to Iraqi refugees in the wider region, and we are seeing some progress being made. The GoI has allocated $25 million to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to support Iraqis who are currently living there, and very recently announced $195 million to support voluntary returnees from the region back to Iraq.

However, while international aid is vital in supporting the most vulnerable Iraqis—both within Iraq and in the wider region—the longer term solution to the humanitarian problem hinges on sustainable improvements in the security situation. Currently refugees who have been interviewed in the region have said they do not wish to return to Iraq because they believe it is unsafe to do so. The UNHCR, who lead on refugee issues, has also made it clear that the situation in Iraq does not currently warrant mass refugee return. Therefore, security must be the Iraqi Government's top priority, to allow displaced people to feel safe enough to return home.