AMMAN, Jordan - Jordan and Syria complained yesterday that they had been abandoned by the West to deal with more than two million Iraqi refugees who have fled the violence in their homeland.
Both countries issued urgent calls for help at a conference on Iraqi refugees, specifically expanded resettlement opportunities in the West and financial assistance.
Milad Atiya, the Syrian ambassador to Jordan and head of his country's delegation to the conference, said the international community "must be involved, especially the United States, because its policy led to the plight the Iraqis are currently in, and it bears responsibility."
Mukheimar Abu-Jamous, secretary-general of the Jordanian Interior Ministry, argued that Western nations "relinquished their responsibility in shouldering the Iraqi refugee burden, and we urge them to rise to their obligation and resettle the largest number possible of those Iraqis."
An influx of 750,000 Iraqis is costing Jordan $1 billion a year in basic services, Abu-Jamous told the gathering in the Jordanian capital. He also said the Iraqis posed security concerns for Jordan, which experienced its worst extremist attack in 2005, when Iraqi suicide bombers linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq killed 60 people at three Amman hotels.
Jordan has since tightened its residency regulations, and all Iraqis must undergo thorough background checks.
About 1.5 million Iraqis have also fled to Syria, and 200,000 to both Egypt and Lebanon. By contrast, the United States has accepted only 133 Iraqi refugees, citing security concerns, but it recently said it would resettle about 7,000 more by the end of September.
"The U.S. offer to take in 7,000 refugees is symbolic," said Iraq's deputy foreign minister, Mohammed Haji Hmoud. "This is not a solution. Seven thousand is nothing."
Delegates from the United States and other countries at the conference declined to comment.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, about 50,000 people flee Iraq every month, mostly to Jordan and Syria. An additional two million Iraqis are believed to be displaced within their own country.
The Washington-based Refugees International and a consortium of 36 international advocacy and aid organizations urged governments in a letter yesterday to "dramatically" increase aid to countries hosting Iraqi refugees.
"We would also like to see the Iraqi government provide substantial assistance for the region," said Kristele Younes of Refugees International.
In April, at a similar conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Iraq pledged $25 million to help displaced Iraqis, but the London-based human-rights group Amnesty International said the money had not yet materialized.