SEATTLE — Like many caught up in the global refugee crisis, Ameera, Sahira and their family fled the war torn city of al Ramadi, Iraq fearing for their safety. The sisters migrated to Baghdad after violent city conditions put their lives at risk.
The sisters’ story is one among the millions of refugees fleeing war and violence in the Middle East. The Syrian civil war has forced 3.9 million Syrian refugees to migrate toward Jordan, Turkey and Western Europe. The majority are Syrians, but others come from as far as Africa while trying to escape regional insecurity.
These migrations are dangerous and often end in missing migrants, or death. The current total number of displaced peoples reached approximately 59 million this year, according to UNHCR.
In an interview with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Ameera explained that “ISIL noticed our cars and decided to hit us.” Ameera described the bloodshed in al Ramadi, which was caused by the self-proclaimed group, ISIS. Last year the group took the northern Iraqi city of Mosel, continuing a violent campaign against any form of opposition to the group in that region.
Displaced with no resources, the family continued their migration west, finally meeting other family members in the western Iraqi area of al Ahnaf. Ameera and her son Omar sustained facial injuries from shrapnel, but both received medical aid in the neighboring city, Abu Ghraib.
Ameera’s sister, Sahira, also said in the interview that the family depended “on what people give us to survive. People used to give us a lot when we came to the area but now because so many families are displaced, we receive less.” Sahira and many refugees alike depend on foreign aid from organizations like the IOM for survival.
The IOM is the largest international migration organization specializing in migration aid by providing food, water and grants for displaced families. Director William Lacy Swing explained, “This is a humanitarian emergency, but it is not an invasion. This is not a crisis of too many migrants reaching Europe and overburdening the continent. The emergency lies in the number of migrants needing aid and safe channels to migrate.”
Sahira and Ameera received a grant from the IOM to assist them in buying basic living expenses like food and water. “Food is expensive, one-kilo of tomato costs 1,250 Dinars ($1US) and we are many people living in one place,” said Sahira. The family used the grant money to purchase necessary food items.
The U.S. has contributed $477 million to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq since 2014 through the USAID. Part of this assistance will go to IOM relief efforts in Iraq. The IOM runs solely on donations, using U.S. and other funding for migration laws and policy research, emergency operations costs and migration management. The IOM helps with the current global refugee crisis, including refugees from South America, the Mediterranean, Africa and Central and South East Asia.
U.S. assistance channels funding to organizations like the IOM as well as the UNHCR to create on-the-ground solutions like emergency housing, food and water for the refugee crisis. Though the U.S. spent $6.18 billion on foreign aid in 2014 and projects to spend $4.68 in 2015, this is less than 1 percent of the $4 trillion U.S. federal budget.
Humanitarian aid programs, like the newly created Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2015-2016 (3RP), require a tremendous amount of foreign aid. Organizers have expressed concern about the lack of funding, stating a $5.5 billion funding gap for the refugee program. Refugee programs like this run on aid from developed nations.
This lack of funding results in austerity measures that reduce food, waste, and housing assistance for refugees. The human rights watch group Amnesty International released a scathing report on the condition of world refugees called “A Conspiracy of Neglect.” The report expressed concerns about developed nations failing to adequately assist refugees, stating that only 23 percent of the UN’s appeal for humanitarian aid was met as of June 2015.
The report went on to criticize developed nations for not doing all they can to host displaced peoples, stating that, “Individual countries should respect their legal obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers, including allowing them to enter their territories, providing assistance to those in distress at sea and tackling xenophobia.”
The report concluded by pointing not just to individual countries like the U.S., but also to a larger international community with plenty of resources to assist. “There must be a fundamental change in the international cooperation on refugees.”