“We've gone from running from fast death in Iraq to slow death in the camps.” A refugee woman in a camp on the Iraq-Syria border

“The ongoing daily violence in Iraq has forced many, many people to flee threats to their lives.  We are dismayed that Canada has so far opened its door to only a very few Iraqi refugees.” Elizabeth McWeeny, CCR President

“Make our dreams truth forever... ”
Refugee children in a camp on the Iraq-Syria border, November 2008

Iraqi women lining up at Al-Tanf camp, Syria.  Credit: UNHCR

More than two million Iraqis have fled to neighbouring countries, principally Syria and Jordan. Because of the scope of the crisis and the strains that countries in the region face, the UNHCR has asked countries like Canada to provide humanitarian assistance and to resettle the most vulnerable refugees from Iraq. So far, the response from Canada has been small in comparison to the scale of the need.

Join the Canadian Council for Refugees in calling for an increased Canadian response to the Iraqi refugee crisis.

• Write to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration urging that Canada support the increased resettlement of refugees from Iraq, including Palestinians who are particularly vulnerable.  Ask that Canada resettle 50 Palestinian families from camps in the Iraq-Syria border area, and that some be sponsored by the Canadian government. Here are suggestions for a letter. Thanks for letting us know how about any response you get - send a quick message to cfrench@ccrweb.ca with details of the Minister’s response.

• Encourage organizations you are involved in to support the CCR’s call for an increased Canadian response to the Iraqi refugee crisis.  Endorsements of this statement can be sent to cfrench@ccrweb.ca.  You can use this printable version of the call and backgrounder. Please also write to the Minister in support of this appeal. Here are suggestions for a letter. Thanks for letting us know how about any response you get - send a quick message to cfrench@ccrweb.ca with details of the Minister’s response.

• Share the slide presentation from a recent visit by organizations to refugee camps in the Iraq-Syria border region at a public event.  (You can also download the powerpoint version - a *big* file). The pictures show the urgent need to resettle the refugees in these camps.  Encourage people who have seen the slideshow to write to the Minister. 

We call on the Canadian government to:

  1. Provide increased bilateral and multilateral support to Syria, Jordan and other neighbouring countries in the region that are hosting over two million Iraqi refugees.
  2. Urge the governments in the region to keep their borders open to Iraqi refugees seeking asylum.
  3. Increase overall resettlement targets (for both government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees) so that there can be a significant increase in numbers of Iraqi refugees resettled to Canada, without reducing the number of refugees resettled from other regions.
  4. Expedite the processing of Iraqi refugees being resettled to Canada, including the security checks.
  5. Educate the Canadian public about the needs of Iraqi refugees and promote the involvement of Canadians in the private sponsorship of Iraqi refugees.
  6. Respond positively to UNHCR referrals for resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the border camps between Iraq and Syria.
  7. Iraqi youth playing soccer in Damascus. Credit: UNHCR/Wreford
  8. Press other countries not to forcibly return Iraqis to their country of origin.
  9. Allocate additional resources to the Damascus mission to ensure that the processing of refugees is not negatively affected by the expediting of family class applications.

Revised December 2007

See also: Call, with backgrounder in PDF PDF

The following organizations have endorsed the call above:

Not In Our Name (NION) would like to endorse the statement made by the Canadian Council for Refugees. This is a very worthy and important step in dealing with this tragic situation. It is a shame that in today’s world the numbers of refugees is growing - it is high time countries like Canada contribute more and take action to help these victims.

Alhuda Muslim Society
Arab Canadian Association of the Atlantic Provinces
Arabic Cultural Club of Oakville
Canadian Arab Federation
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Muslim Forum
Hamilton Council of Canadian Arabs
Islamic Ahlul Bayt Assembly of Canada
Lawyers against the War
Niagara Coalition for Peace
Niagara Palestinian Association
NION (Not In Our Name)
Palestinian and Jewish Unity
Palestinian Association of Brantford
Palestinian Network
Québec solidaire
United Church of Canada - Toronto Conference
Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Canadian section

The Canadian Section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom hereby goes on record as supporting the long-overdue statement by the Canadian Council for Refugees calling on all nations to recognize and support, in whatever way possible the plight of Iraqi refugees. Joanne Whitney, WILPF Canadian Section 

Iraqi youth taking catch-up classes in Syria’s Saida Zeinab neighbourhood in preparation for the start of the school year. Credit: UNHCR/ Bernard

In addition to the Call with backgrounder, the CCR has produced the following relevant documents:

Fact sheet, Palestinian Refugees Forced Out of Iraq, April 2009

Media release, Canadian government should resettle Palestinian refugees forced out of Iraq, 25 March 2009

Slide show prepared by Gloria Nafziger, International NGO Delegation to Palestinians on the Syria-Iraq border. Also in Powerpoint version - a *big* file.

From Fast Death to Slow Death: Palestinian Refugees from Iraq Trapped on the Syria-Iraq Border Summary Report of an International NGO Delegation, November 24, 2008

Media release, Canada’s response to Iraqi refugee crisis inadequate, 19 March 2008

Media release, Canada urged to resettle more Iraqi refugees, 16 April 2007

Justice for refugees and immigrants: some key issues, pamphlet, June 2008 (printed copies are also available for order - see order form)

Analysis of a small number of Iraqi private sponsorship applications refused at Damascus, December 2006

Al-Tanf camp, Syria. Credit: UNHCR
Karim, 17, earns the only income for his family seeking refuge in Damascus. Credit: UNHCR/Bernard

UNHCR, The Iraq Situation

Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), Iraqi Refugees and IDPs (includes links to many reports and articles)

Amnesty International, Iraq: World governments misleading and failing Iraqi refugees, June 2008, media release

Amnesty International, Iraq – Rhetoric and Reality: the Iraqi refugee crisis, June 2008

Amnesty International, Carnage et despair: Iraq five years on, March 2008, report

Amnesty International, Iraq: Human rights abuses against Palestinian refugees, AI Index: MDE 14/030/2007, 1 October 2007

Human Rights Watch: Iraq (various documents)

International Crisis Group, Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, July 2008, Middle East Report Nr. 77

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Migration and Refugee Services, Escaping Mayhem and Murder: Iraqi Refugees in the Middle East, July 2007

World Vision, Trapped! Unlocking the future of Iraqi refugee children, undated, http://www.iraqichildrentrapped.org/Downloads/wv_report.pdf and http://www.iraqichildrentrapped.org/

Relief Web, Appeals & Funding, Iraq: Funding received

Foreign Affairs Canada, Canadian Statement, UNHCR conference on “Addressing the Humanitarian Needs of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons inside Iraq and in Neighbouring Countries”, Geneva, 17-18 April 2007

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Fact Sheets and Newsletters

A refugee family in Ruwaished, Jordan. Credit: UNHCR/Sands