Lawmakers Seek $1.5 Billion to Help Iraqi Refugees

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Two key members of Congress yesterday asked President Bush to add $1.5 billion to his spending next year on the Iraq war to help pay for several Iraq refugee programs, including the one that would bring as many as 5,000 former interpreters or translators for U.S. forces to this country over five years.

Reps. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) and John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) said in a letter sent to Bush that "our government has a moral responsibility to provide leadership" with more than 4.5 million Iraqis either internally displaced or in neighboring countries because of the war. "Iraqis are now the third-largest displaced population in the world and the fastest-growing refugee population globally," they said and thus have "grave potential to lead to a regional crisis."

The lawmakers said the U.S. government should provide $80 million to pay for transportation to the United States and settlement of former Iraqi interpreters; another $80 million for other Iraqi refugees seeking to come to the United States; another $130 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which provides health care and financial support to Iraqi refugees; $200 million for displaced Iraqis inside that country; and $700 million to Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon to support Iraqi refugees in their countries.

-- Walter Pincus

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