Refugees need better care

By By John Stafford

By John Stafford

Many refugees who have come to Utah in search of greener pastures are being forced to return to areas of conflict as overwhelmed and underfunded aid agencies struggle to make accommodations.

Agencies such as the International Rescue Committee are overwhelmed with refugees, many of whom can’t find work in these hard economic times. Assimilating into a foreign culture is tough enough, but without sufficient aid and with little opportunity for work, refugees are forced to crowd small rooms with their families, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. After administrative costs, federal aid comes to only about $425 per person to cover rent, food and other expenses. This dries up quickly, leaving unemployed refugees to pick up the pieces and somehow make ends meet.

In Utah, this is an all-too-bleak reality for many newly arrived Iraqi refugees who are a part of the 6,000 relocated to the United States and the more than 4 million displaced worldwide. Some are returning to Iraq in search of a better life after their dreams of prosperity were nowhere to be found in America.

Let’s get this straight. The United States invades their country, sparks violence and causes them to flee for their lives, takes them in with comforting “better days” promises, then leaves them with minimal aid to face unemployment and a medical policy that basically says, “Don’t get sick or hurt.”

It’s hard to see how this supports the famous, heartwarming lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” that we, as Americans, pride ourselves on.

As the country heads in a new direction and President Barack Obama looks to rebuild America’s image overseas, the issue of refugee hardships seems to be a good place to start. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had a budget of only $700,000 for Iraqi refugees in Syria in 2006 according to the group’s Web site. This came out to less than a dollar for every person who crossed the border.

Aid for refugees has since increased, but tales of refugees in Utah living seven to a dingy room with little food and no health care show that it isn’t enough. The United States has historically spent around one-fourth of 1 percent of its gross national income on aid for foreign countries. We can do better. America needs to show the world that the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty are not mere hyperbole, but a respected manifesto of the way we as a people and as a country seek to do good in the world. At the very least we should make a greater effort to look after refugees in Utah.

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John Stafford