Wednesday, June 20, 2012

World Refugee Day

Today is World Refugee Day.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy Angelina Jolie: Every minute, 8 people around the world are forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution.  No one chooses to be a refugee. Today, 43 million people worldwide have been displaced. We remember them.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, "Refugees leave because they have no choice.  We must choose to help."  Nicholas A. Heras (Fair Observer) zooms in on one group of refugees in "Going Nowhere Fast: Iraqi Refugees:"

The daily existential struggle of millions of Iraqi refugees has become lost in the coverage of the unexpected, tumultuous, and geo-politically spell-binding Arab uprisings. Although the coalition's mission in Iraq is declared officially over, and the Iraqi government is encouraging their return, millions of Iraqi refugees remain unconvinced that life in their homeland is improving.
Since the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power in 2003, an estimated 4 million Iraqis of all sectarian identities and social classes have fled the country for other nations in the region, especially Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Sporadic violence, poverty, lack of infrastructure, and a pervasive state of instability prompted their exodus from Iraq. The displacement of Iraqi refugees is considered by many experts to be the largest movement of people in the Middle East region since 1948, when Palestinians left what is today Israel for the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and neighboring nations.

This week, the UN released UNHCR Global Trends 2011 which contains details such as 46% of refugees are under the age of 18, that three areas of concern are the displaced of Columbia, of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of Iraq, and that the Middle East and North Africa have a larger number of refugees than the Americas and and Asia and Pacific combined.  (Africa has the largest number of refugees with 2.1 million to the Middle East and North Africa's 1.9 million.) Through the end of last year, Iraq could claim 1,428,3000 refugees.  Only Afghanistan topped that figure (Afghanistan had 2.6 million).  Of the report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, "These numbers represent far more than statistics; they are individuals and families whose lives have been upended, whose communities have been destroyed, and whose future remains uncertain."

The European Union's High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom released this joint-statement today:

"Today, on the World Refugee Day, our thoughts are, more than ever, with the millions of women, children and men, around the world who are forced to flee their home countries because of war, conflict, or persecution. This is still a reality in today's world.
Protecting the persecuted, the weak and the vulnerable is our obligation. All EU Member States have acceded to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and are committed to its implementation. In a world where people continue to fear for their lives just because of their race, religion, or political beliefs, Europe has to remain true to its principles by showing solidarity towards refugees. We are proud that so many Europeans share the conviction that the EU must offer protection and asylum to all those who need it.
The EU is stepping up efforts to put in place common rules on asylum which guarantee high standards of protection and is aiming to complete the strengthening of the Common European Asylum System by the end of this year. This objective is within reach, with the final stages of the negotiations now underway. Work is also progressing on enhancing solidarity between EU Member States.
The UNHCR's 2011 Ministerial Conference underlined the importance of eliminating the phenomenon of statelessness. We welcome the pledges made during this Conference, and underline the EU's determination to step up its efforts to address statelessness worldwide.
In 2011, just over 300,000 asylum applications were lodged in Europe, more than the year before but well below the peak of 425,000 in 2001. This represents about 34 % of the total worldwide. However, contrary to widespread belief, it is not Europe but other countries – often the poorest – that host the world's largest refugee populations. Last year, South Africa alone received close to 107 000 applications – one tenth of all asylum applications worldwide. In terms of the individuals recognised as refugees, approximately four fifths are hosted in developing countries.
Therefore, refugee resettlement should form an integral part of the EU common asylum policy. Resettlement is not only a life-saving measure but an important humanitarian gesture of solidarity on the part of the EU towards countries hosting large numbers of refugees.
We welcome the European Parliament's and the Council's decision to establish a common EU resettlement programme for 2013. The programme will include specific EU resettlement priorities, identifying the nationalities of refugees and the countries from which resettlement should take place as a priority and for whom EU funding is available. In 2013 that list will include refugees from Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Burma and Eritrea.
We are gravely concerned about the plight of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria. The EU, in close co-operation with its partners, is providing significant humanitarian and other assistance to these refugees, and will throw its weight behind all efforts to ensure the protection of the victims of this conflict."

The US State Dept elects to Tweet (it's less characters so less time required):

June 20 is World Day. Join Assistant Secretary Anne Richard for a Q&A. Send her your questions using .

In the Iraqi press, World Refugee Day isn't causing a ripple.  But, in fairness, they usually note events like this the day after (reporting on what an Iraqi official said on the occasion, that sort of thing).  What's the big story in the Iraqi press today?

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's letter to US President Barack Obama asking/requesting/demanding (depends upon the account) that Barack kill ExxonMobil's deal with the KRG.  Kitabat uses "warned" of the October 18th contracts between the parties and quotes a spokesperson for Nouri, Ali al-Moussawi, stating that these contracts could start wars and could rip the country apart.


If that's the case, maybe Nouri should show some leadership and back the hell off his non-stop complaining about the contract?  Don't hold your breath for that to happen.  Dar Addustour reports Nouri is prepared to go to the extreme -- they're citing al-Moussawi on that and what the "extreme scores" would be is not specified.

But what the statements make clear is that it's not the ExxonMobil contract that's causing problems.  It's Nouri's reactions to the contracts.

Al Rafidayn reports that, thus far, there's no response from Barack but National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor acknowledged that the letter from Nouri was received.  Reuters reports today, "Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan expects more oil majors to follow Exxon Mobil Corporation in the next few months in striking deals in the region, where oil shipments will resume, its natural resources minister said, despite a dispute with Baghdad." April Yee (The National) observes, "A hydrocarbon law remains a mirage in Baghdad and the reality is dawning that Iraq's plans to become one of the world's top-five oil producers are jeopardised by the legal deadlock."

Alsumaria reports on their exclusive interview with Moqtada al-Sadr.  Moqtada states the US still occupies Iraq and that the so-called withdrawal was purely symbolic.  He states that Iraqis seek an Iraq free of US interference and one free of the US Embassy.  He declares that the US Embassy is merely a cover to keep foreign foces (contractors, Marines and some soldiers) in Iraq under the guise of protecting the Embassy staff.

Alsumaria reports a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people -- including a 3-year-old child -- injured. Al Rafidayn reports a Kirkuk car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left nine injured.  BBC News reports Judge Aziz Abdul Qadir was the target of the bombing and that he and two of his bodyguards are among the injured.  In addition, the Herald of Scotland notes that a clash yesterday between the PKK and Turkish military left sixteen soldiers injured.  The Oman Tribune reports that 20 PKK were killed in the altercation.

Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She continues fighting for veterans and her latest bill would put veterans on an equal footing with the non-military when it comes to reproductive issues.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

Chairman Murray Introduces Bill to Provide Veterans with Genital and Reproductive Wounds with Access to In Vitro Fertilization through the VA

As veterans continue to return home with catastrophic IED injuries, Murray bill reverses VA ban on critical fertility treatment; will help veterans and their spouses have children.

If forced to turn to the private sector, veterans and their spouses often have to pay tens of thousands in out-of-pocket costs to access IVF services

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that will end the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ban on providing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) services.   Murray's bill, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, also will begin child care programs at Vet Centers for women seeking counseling, and improving outreach to women veterans.
Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 over 600 servicemembers have suffered reproductive and urinary tract trauma.  The reliance on foot patrols in Afghanistan and the prevalence of improvised explosive devices has left servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries.

"Reproductive injuries are some of the most impactful and serious wonds of these wars," Senator Murray said today upon introduction of the bill.  "VA has an obligation to care for the combat wounded.  For those with such catastrophic injuries, that includes access to the fertility care they needed.  Veterans and their spouses are specifically barred from accessing In Vitro Fertilization services at the VA and often times have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family.  These veterans deserve far more."

Veterans who have severe reproductive and urinary tract injuries and spinal cord injuries (SCI) often need highly specialized treatments and procedures like IVF to conceive.  However, under current law, IVF is expressly excluded from fertility services that are provided by the VA to veterans or their spouses.  This is a significant barrier for veterans with SCI and genital and uringary tract injuries and as a result they have to seek care outside of the VA.  The Department of Defense currently provides access to IVF services under the Tricare program and coverage for IVF and other fertility treatments at no charge to severely combat wounded servicemembers.  Senator Murray's bill would provide veterans with the same access. 


Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct

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