Iraqi refugees

The Brookings Institution put out a report last week that describes in detail the situation of the 1 to 1.5 million Iraqi refugees currently living in Syria (there are an estimated 2 million in the region, in addition to 2 million internally displaced).

The report discusses the reasons refugees are leaving Iraq: getting caught in fighting between US and Iraqi forces and insurgents (200,000 refugees arrived after the fall of Fallujah in 2004); fleeing sectarian violence; fleeing crime, violence and the impossibility of making a livelihood generally; and being in need of medical services that are no longer available in Iraq. The report describes the ways in which refugees travel to Syria, and their living conditions there. It points out that while many Iraqis arrive with some resources and skills, and can count on support from relatives across the border, many of them are running out of money (and turning to child labour and prostitution) and that their numbers may yet continue to swell dramatically.

The Syrian goverment, for all its (countless, enormous) faults, has been by far the most generous host to Iraqi refugees, letting them in easily and giving them access to state health care and education. The Syrian government has been much more generous than, say, the American government, which has given refugee status to about 800 Iraqis since 2003. But we just passed legislation that will allow us to resettle "nearly 7,000." So we're doing our bit.

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.