Skip to main content

Plight of the Refugees

Letter to the Editor

Published in: The Times

Your poll shows that one in four has been displaced in Iraq, many forced to flee abroad. The UK has studiously ignored nearly 2m refugees escaping violence and persecution, perhaps because recognising their existence would be an admission that the adventure in Iraq did not go as planned.

Britain has done almost nothing to help or relieve the burden on Iraq's neighbours; in the past four years it has had no programme of resettlement nor has it earmarked significant humanitarian aid for Iraqi refugees.

For their own reasons, Iraq's neighbours have also preferred to regard the Iraqis in their countries as "guests" or "illegal aliens" rather than as people with certain rights. Jordan, in particular, is taking a very hard line, closing its border to men of military age and refusing to honour documents issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UK can no longer shirk its responsibility. Offers of resettlement and assistance to Jordan and Syria should be quick and generous. But to protect Iraqi refugees, Britain must condition this support on Jordan stopping its rejection of Iraqi asylum-seekers at the border and agreeing to respect the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers on its territory.

Bill Frelick
Refugee Policy Director
Human Rights Watch
Washington, DC

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.