Caritas Urging Political Action for Iraqi Refugees

GENEVA, APRIL 17, 2007 ( Caritas Internationalis says the Iraqi refugee crisis threatens to destabilize the whole region as the number of people fleeing the conflict tops 2 million.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is sponsoring a conference in Geneva today and Wednesday to highlight the plight of Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries as well as within Iraq.

Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations, will be represented at the event by President Denis Viénot and other colleagues.

Caritas’ desk officer for the Middle East and North Africa, Sebastien Dechamps, said, “There are 2 million Iraqi refugees in the Middle East region alone. Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and now Egypt cannot sustain indefinitely such a social and economic burden.”

Dechamps continued, “The international community has to shoulder its responsibility to help these Iraqis, fleeing war, violence and hopelessness.”

Caritas Syria, Caritas Jordan, Caritas Lebanon and Caritas Turkey are all assisting thousands of refugees. However, they report that the situation is unsustainable since few Iraqis are given legal status in their host countries and most are forbidden to work.