Michigan, USA - They have been forced to flee their home and country due to the Iraqi war. Many grieve over having to abandon their children or elderly parents and will remain emotionally scarred for life. Others are tortured and killed in violent conflict. Those that are able to find refuge from the killing in another country are treated inhumanely. They are still without food, water, shelter, medical or mental care, kept unemployed, uneducated, and alienated. They are what many consider locked into a living hell.
The Iraq war has ravaged more than 20,000 families – mostly Christians –persecuted and even murdered because of their religious beliefs says Basil Bakal, Chaldean Federation of America Adopt-A-Refugee Family committee chairman.
Many feel the United States have a responsibility to address the refugee crisis caused by the Iraq war and occupation. Current American policy denies any special American responsibility for Iraqi refugees although the entire world believes that the two million refugees are a bi-product of American actions in Iraq says Lavinia Limon. Limon is the former Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Service under the Clinton administration and current President and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).
Entire families, infants, children, young adults, and elders are left homeless, hungry, and in desperation. Paralyzed by fear and hurting for someone, somewhere to help the effort in rescuing and rebuilding their shattered lives.
“There are a few political leaders and American organizations that have taken it upon themselves to right the wrong the U.S. have created,” says Joseph Hano, a researcher on the plight of Iraqi Refugees and Immigrants. “We are most grateful to Senator Levin from Michigan and the Chaldean Federation of America that have engaged this challenge. Every little bit counts.”
The Chaldean Federation of America has launched the Adopt-A-Refugee Family program that is seen by many humanitarian organizations to be the most successful. “The transparency, global partnership, and proven humanitarian relief organized by the CFA is nothing short of astounding,” adds Hano.
Unheard of by most any charitable organization is that the CFA provides 100% of a sponsor’s donation directly to a refugee family in need. All administrative costs are handled by volunteers, philanthropists, and admin donors.
Bakal has achieved what many in the not-for-profit world only hope to realize. The successful entrepreneur who owns a chain of hospitality suites has dedicated most all of his time and much of his resources to aiding refugees.
Under Bakal’s leadership the CFA has created a unique process by which every dollar donated is received, hand delivered, and confirmed receipt by a refugee family. The effort required an international team of translators, financial wizards, and partnerships with other charitable organizations.
The process is personal, guaranteed, and mimics a banking system of wire transfers, independent auditors, and verifying organizations. The receiving family is required to write to the donor and the funds are used for food, water, clothing, and medical or mental needs. The process matches each donor to a refugee family. Third-party humanitarian auditors confirm the receipt and appropriate use of the funds.
Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan and other surrounding countries have strained the infrastructures of the host nations. Aside from the sheer numbers; this crisis is unique because the refugees don’t live in segregated and squalid refugee camps. UNHCR and international NGO’s are unable to deliver basic food and shelter to the thousands families forced as “urban refugees”.
The UN and the US have focused on providing educational and health assistance to the refugees. Limon says, “This is admirable but these needs are truly secondary to food and shelter and there is ample evidence of hunger and homelessness among the refugees.”
The USCRI recommends these refugees be allowed to exercise just one of their rights under international law – the right to work. This will be beneficial to the host nations because many of the Iraqi refugees fleeing the war are the brightest and most educated people Iraq has to offer. “If the refugees could work legally they could support themselves and their families and have something to bring back with them when they return to Iraq,” she states.
Limon has been strongly urging the US to use all of their diplomatic skills and financial incentives to persuade the host nations to allow Iraqi’s to work. “The US must do a better job in rescuing Iraqi refugees who have worked for the coalition effort and now find themselves targeted by the insurgents. It is estimated that over 100,000 Iraqis have closely associated themselves with the Coalition efforts and are now in danger.”
In 1975 the U.S. rescued 130,000 Southeast Asians without the help of computers in nine months. In 1980 America absorbed over 100,000 Cubans and in 1997 they brought over 10,000 refugees from Kosovo in a matter of months.
USCRI recommends the U.S. demonstrate the same sense of urgency and resolve to help those brave Iraqis who have risked their lives to help save American soldiers and Marines. “Turning our backs on our allies does not bode well for any future endeavors in the Middle East,” the head of USCRI says.
Hano says it is incumbent on every American to help in putting the pieces back together in the lives of these refugees. “We can not wait for politicians to check the latest polls while babies and young children slip into an abyss. We have to dive in and start saving lives. What hope is there for America’s future if our reputation of causing such chaos and havoc is left tainted by our refusal to help those we have so gravely harmed?”
The Chaldean Federation of America has made it easy for most anyone to help a refugee family. Bakal says the goal of the “Adopt-A-Refugee-Family” program is to help stabilize at least 600 of the direst families. Donors are able to contact the Chaldean Federation of America directly and begin the process of healing. The effort will go far in demonstrating the American people’s generosity and genuine concern for the victims of the Iraqi war.