Friday, February 16, 2007

Violence could force 1M Iraqis to flee homes

Violence could force 1M Iraqis to flee homes this year, migration body says By Mark Avery, Reuters

GENEVA (AP) — Unrelenting violence and insecurity in Iraq could cause as many as 1 million Iraqis to flee their homes this year, the world's migration body said Friday."The numbers of people that are being displaced are increasing every day," said Jemini Pandya, spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration. "The security situation is not improving. It's not changing." Pandya said the 120-nation organization's estimate was made "on the assumption that security conditions will continue much as they are."The possibility of neighboring countries, such as Syria, closing their borders would mean even more of the displaced would only be able to get as far as other parts of Iraq.

Pandya said the prognosis was "bleak" for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have already fled within the war-ravaged country. Malnutrition, disease and infections among children are rising due to a lack of food and the exodus of doctors and nurses, she said. According to the United Nations, about 3.8 million Iraqis were forced to flee their homes over the last three decades as the country endured an eight-year war against neighboring Iran, numerous internal crackdowns by Saddam Hussein's regime, two invasions by U.S.-led forces and the current sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni factions. The number includes about 2 million refugees spread out across the world, and about 1.8 million within Iraq separated from their homes and communities. Both tallies are growing.

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