Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons: A Deepening Humanitarian Crisis?

Publication Date: February 2009

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: International relations; Population and demographics


Coverage: Iraq


The humanitarian crisis many feared would take place in March 2003 as a result of the war in Iraq appears to be unfolding. It is estimated that in total (including those displaced prior to the war) there may be two million Iraqi refugees who have fled to Jordan, Syria, and other neighboring states, and approximately two million Iraqis who have been displaced within Iraq itself.

Throughout areas in western and central Iraq, the security situation is deteriorating, and many of Iraq's neighbors fear that they are being overwhelmed by refugees fleeing over Iraq's borders. There are now heightened concerns about the absorptive capacity of neighboring countries, whether they can provide adequately for the populations moving across borders, and the impact of refugee flows on stability in general. Some experts think that the Iraq situation could well begin to outpace other refugee crises worldwide.

This report provides an analysis of the current crisis, including the conditions for those displaced in Iraq and the refugee situations in Syria, Jordan, and elsewhere. It also provides information on the U.S. and international response and examines refugee resettlement options in the United States. Aspects of this crisis that may be of particular interest to the 110th Congress include a focus on an immediate response (providing humanitarian relief funding), examining resettlement policies, and developing a strategy to manage the displaced, particularly within Iraq. This report will be updated as events warrant. For more information on Iraq, see CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, Christopher M. Blanchard, Coordinator, and CRS Report RL33793, Iraq: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman.