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Iraq: Refugees

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 26 June 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to comments made by Iraqi MP Abdul-Khaliq Zankana that the problem of internally displaced persons and Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries is likely to become an increasingly significant regional and international problem as the Iraqi Government appear to have no clear policy to tackle it.[HL3845]

We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and among Iraqi refugees in the wider region. That is why DfID has committed over £149 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq since 2003, £17 million of which has been allocated 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.

However, it will require an Iraqi-led solution to tackle this problem fully. The Government of Iraq (GoI) have recognised that they hold primary responsibility for the welfare of their people and are working to address the humanitarian situation inside the country. For example, the GoI this week allocated $40 million to the World Food Programme, to assist in the provision of food for internally displaced people.

It is also necessary to recognise the considerable hospitality which Syria and other countries in the region have shown by accommodating large numbers of people fleeing the violence in Iraq. However, this hospitality cannot be expected to last indefinitely. The UK Government continue to encourage the GoI to take a lead in providing financial support to their own people in the region. We are seeing some progress being made. The GoI have transferred $25 million to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to support the Iraqis who are currently living there, and have allocated $195 million to support voluntary returnees.

The longer term solution to the problem hinges on the security situation improving in Iraq. 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, which leads 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.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the appeal made by local aid organisations and the United Nations Refugee Agency on 12 May for $127 million to help Iraqi internally displaced persons and refugees until the end of 2008.[HL3846]

International donors have already contributed $134 million to the UNHCR's 2008 Iraq appeal, which is primarily designed to address the needs of Iraqi refugees in the region. The UNHCR has now asked for a further $127 million, in order to meet its 2008 Iraq appeal target of $261 million.

DfID has already contributed a total of £17 million for humanitarian assistance to Iraq this year, including £3 million to the UNHCR appeal—making the UK its fourth largest donor. We have also committed: £7 million to the International Committee for the Red Cross; £5 million to the UN Consolidated Appeal for Iraq; and £2 million to the World Food Programme (WFP). Since 2003, the UK has committed over £149 million in humanitarian assistance for Iraq.

It is important to note that the UNHCR Iraq appeal was only announced in January of this year, and we can still expect some international donors who have not yet pledged funds to do so in the coming months.