Jordan asks for help with Iraqi refugees
Struggling with security threats and mounting costs, Jordan's government is pleading with other countriesfor help with its influx of Iraqi refugees fleeing violence at home.
The 750,000 Iraqi refugees who havecrossed the border are costing Jordan about $1 billion a year in basic services, Jordanian Interior Ministry Secretary-General Muhkheimar Abu-Jamous said Thursday.
Abu Jamous says the flood of refugees has also strained infrastructure, such as education and health, and brought the threat of violence.
Hedid not specify the security threats, but Jordan has shown concern that Iraq's sectarian violence could spread onto its soil. Also, the large numbers of refugeeswith few job prospectsraise worries about crime.
In response, Jordan has tightened residency regulations, requiring all Iraqis to undergo security background checks before they obtain permission to stay.
2.5 million Iraqirefugees worldwide
The cash-strapped kingdom made the call for assistance at a one-day conference Thursday examining ways to ease the burdens of countries hosting more than 2.5 million Iraqi refugees.
Among the participants were representatives from Iraq, Syria, Egypt, the Arab League and UN relief organizations. The U.S., Turkey, Japan, Iran and Russia were also there as observers.
About 50,000 people flee Iraq every month, mostly to neighbouring Jordan and Syria, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The two countries have repeatedly said the influx is exhausting their limited resources, burdening health care and education systems and causing a sharp rise in inflation and real estate.
About 1.5 million Iraqi refugees have fled to Syria. Egypt and Lebanon have more than 200,000 each.
Meanwhile, two million Iraqis are believed to be displaced in their home country.
Developed countries asked to help
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International said the flow of refugees is "threatening a humanitarian crisis that could engulf the region unless concerted international action is taken now."
"The response of the international community must go beyond accepting token numbers of refugees from Iraq," said Malcolm Smart, head of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program.
"Their assistance must constitute a significant part of the solution to this terrible crisis."
Amnesty called on developed countries such as the United States, the European Union and Britain to provide resettlement programs for refugees.
The United States has said it will accept some 7,000 Iraqis by the end of September.
With files from the Associated Press