Skip Links
U.S. Department of State
Department Releases International Religi...  |  Daily Press Briefing | What's NewU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
SEARCHU.S. Department of State
Subject IndexBookmark and Share
U.S. Department of State
HomeHot Topics, press releases, publications, info for journalists, and morepassports, visas, hotline, business support, trade, and morecountry names, regions, embassies, and morestudy abroad, Fulbright, students, teachers, history, and moreforeign service, civil servants, interns, exammission, contact us, the Secretary, org chart, biographies, and more
 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs > Releases From the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs > Remarks About Near Eastern Affairs > 2008 Remarks About Near Eastern Affairs > July-September Remarks on Near Eastern Affairs 

Briefing on Developments in the Iraqi Refugee Admissions and Assistance Programs

James B. Foley, Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues Ambassador
Lori Scialabba, Senior Adviser to the Secretary of Homeland Security for Iraqi Refugees
Washington, DC
September 12, 2008

View Video

(11:42 p.m. EDT)

MR. WOOD: Thanks, everyone. Welcome. We have for you today the Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees, Ambassador James Foley; and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Homeland Security for Iraqi Refugees, Lori Scialabba. Ambassador Foley will give some opening remarks and then turn to Ms. Scialabba, and then Mr. Foley will come – Ambassador Foley will come back and give a few more remarks and then take your questions.

So without further ado, let me turn it over to Ambassador Foley.

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Thank you, Robert. Today, we are marking the achievement of the Administration’s goal for resettling Iraqi refugees in fiscal year 2008. Yesterday, on September 11th, we crossed the 12,000 threshold. Thus far, 12,118 Iraqi refugees have arrived in the U.S. for permanent resettlement, and more than 1,000 are booked to travel to the U.S. by the end of the month.

This is no reason to celebrate, although it is very good news for these Iraqi refugees and for many more in the future who will benefit from the processing capacity that we’ve built up over the past year. But celebration will come only when the suffering of all displaced Iraqis has come to an end; that is, when they can return to their homes in a safe and secure Iraq, a day we hope is nearing.

However, I would like to acknowledge the dedicated hard work of many who made this result possible. President Kennedy once said that success has a thousand authors, but failure is an orphan. I might have been giving a different kind of press conference today, but with these results there are a number of persons whose critical role I’d like to acknowledge.

First, Secretary Rice, who made this issue a top priority and who acted to ensure enhanced and effective cooperation between the Departments of State and Homeland Security, which was a real key to success. I benefitted throughout the year from her support and from the confidence that came from knowing she had my back. I’d also like to thank Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky for her key support and leadership.

Second, my esteemed Homeland Security counterpart, Lori Scialabba, along with the leadership at the Department of Homeland Security, and the officials and officers at USCIS who managed and staffed this very challenging and successful effort while safeguarding the nation’s security.

Third, two persons whose passionate commitment to assisting vulnerable Iraqis, including those associated with U.S. efforts in Iraq, have made all the difference: Senator Edward Kennedy and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Finally, and not least, I would like to thank the men and women of the Bureau of Population and Migration Affairs under Acting Assistant Secretary Sam Witten, who I’ve been lucky to work with over the past year. They’re the true experts and professionals, and they got it done. Among many deserving colleagues, one officer stands out, Elizabeth Harris, who was personally responsible for overseeing this effort. It is a job that required constant coordination with multiple actors throughout the world, such as Homeland Security, the UNHCR, the IOM, the ICMC, our many embassies and refugee coordinators throughout the Middle East. To put a twist on the Kennedy quote, our success, in fact, had a principal author, and that was Elizabeth Harris.

I think I’d like to stop, turn the floor over to Lori Scialabba, and I will pick up when she has made her presentation.

QUESTION: Just before you go--


QUESTION: What is the figure thus far for just the first half of September? Do you know?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: We’ll get that for you. It’s 10,998, the difference between that and 12,118, I believe.




QUESTION: Thank you.


MS. SCIALABBA: Well, thank you, Jim. And I just want to also thank a few people, particularly our colleagues at the State Department, and you, for being a very good partner in what has been a very good working relationship. And I would just mention that our chief in charge of the Refugee Affairs Division is Barbara Strack, who heads our Refugee Corps, who played an instrumental role in this process, as well as June Tancredi, who is her deputy, who was one of the first people who went in to Baghdad to set up the in-country processing that we’re currently doing.

During fiscal year 2008, USCIS has worked closely with the State Department and other programs to interview Iraqi refugee applicants. Together, we overcame a number of challenges to develop a robust resettlement program for Iraqi refugees throughout the region. As a result of this collaboration, you’ve just heard, the U.S. refugee admissions program successfully accomplished our primary goal to admit 12,000 Iraqi refugees.

This very significant increase is over the 1,600 Iraqis that were admitted last year. This achievement reflects an extraordinary commitment on our part, the Department of Homeland Security. USCIS deployed over 150 staff to the region to conduct 29 circuit rides, interviewing over 23,000 Iraqis during fiscal year 2008. We implemented a rigorous security check process that is fast and effective. We reviewed and approved material support exemptions for over 900 people who had provided material support under duress.

We launched an in-country program by sending USCIS officers to conduct interviews in Baghdad, in addition to processing in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere in the region. Most importantly, we were able to offer protection to thousands of refugees who were at risk due to the support of the U.S.-led mission in Iraq, their minority status or sectarian violence. USCIS is committed to continuing these efforts in FY09. We will work hard, along with State Department, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the NGO community to enhance our processing capacity and to offer more protection to Iraqi refugees in FY09.

And I’ll turn it back over to Jim for assistance information.


In addition to reaching our goal of 12,000 arrivals, I am pleased to announce some good news in terms of additional U.S. contributions to meeting the humanitarian needs of Iraqi refugees. Thanks to supplemental funding, since June of 2008, the U.S. Government has provided an additional $110 million in humanitarian assistance for Iraqi refugees, for conflict victims and internally displaced persons, bringing our total contributions to date in fiscal year 2008 to over $318 million. That’s, by way of comparison, an increase over last year’s total of $171 million.

The new contributions break down as follows: 43.4 million toward UNHCR’s 2008 appeal to assist displaced Iraqis both inside Iraq and in neighboring countries; $12 million additional to the World Food Program’s emergency operations to provide food assistance to displaced Iraqis in Syria and Iraq; an additional 7.2 million to the International Organization for Migration for humanitarian assistance, again both inside and outside of Iraq; $22.5 million to nongovernmental organizations who are providing basic humanitarian assistance, including health, education, and provision of emergency relief supplies, food, water systems, and infrastructure rehabilitation, again inside and outside of Iraq; $16 million to UNICEF to provide health, nutrition, water and sanitation inside Iraq; and $1.8 million to the UN OCHA for coordination activities inside Iraq.

I should add that before the end of the fiscal year, in other words, at some point in the next 18 days, we hope to program at least an additional $50 million to international organizations, including UNHCR and NGOs who are providing assistance in Jordan, in Syria, in Lebanon and Iraq. And right now, there are people with green eyeshades working studiously in windowless rooms to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to make that happen. So we should, we hope, have more to say on that by the end of the month.

I’d like to make a comment here about the total assistance that we provided this fiscal year. To date, we’ve funded – the U.S. has funded over 51 percent of UNHCR’s 2008 Iraq appeal, which was for $261 million. This far exceeds the traditional 25 percent benchmark and, as I said, we may yet reach a significantly higher percentage over the next 18 days of this UNHCR appeal. And I say this not to pat ourselves on the back. We recognize our unique responsibilities towards displaced Iraqis, and we’ve acted on that recognition.

But the fact of the matter is that we stepped forward with steadily increasing contributions throughout the year because others largely did not. Looking to the future, this pattern is hardly sustainable. We can hope that the needs of Iraqi refugees may stabilize in the coming year, and there are possible indicators of that. But the burden of supporting them will remain considerable, and it’s a burden that others should want to help shoulder, given not only the humanitarian needs but also the world’s stake in the stability of the Middle East. And so we look to greater support from traditional donors, but more importantly, new support from other donors, particularly in the region, not to mention the Government of Iraq itself.

Now, where do we go from here? It’s clear, looking forward, that we will maintain a robust resettlement program for Iraqi refugees, as well as robust levels of assistance to Iraqi refugees in the region and those displaced inside Iraq. At the same time, however, we will want to give increasing attention to developing prospects for refugee returns to Iraq as the security situation there continues to improve. For most of the nearly 2 million Iraqi refugees in the region, we know that the primary solution, indeed, is going to be their safe, secure, and voluntary return to their country.

Concerning future U.S. resettlement efforts, it should be noted that throughout the course of this fiscal year, and we’ve described this at various stages of the year, we have developed an increasingly robust processing capacity for Iraqi refugees in multiple locations across the Middle East. And this now includes an emerging in-country processing capacity in Baghdad, and perhaps Lori might want to speak to that later because Homeland Security just had a very significant circuit ride in Baghdad over the last weeks.

As a result of this significantly increased processing capacity throughout the region, we will be in a position – we anticipate that barring unforeseen adverse developments in the region, we will be in a position to significantly increase the number of Iraqi refugees admitted to the U.S. for permanent resettlement in fiscal year 2009. Now, we cannot predict what that number ultimately will be, but we expect to admit a minimum of 17,000 Iraqi refugees in the coming fiscal year. So the goal is to maximize our capacity, and that’s what we’re going to aim to do over the next fiscal year.

I should note as well that in addition to planning to resettle significantly more Iraqi refugees in the coming year, we will also be processing potentially thousands more Iraqis for Special Immigrant Visas under the terms of the Kennedy legislation. This bill authorizes 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas per year for Iraqis who have worked for or on behalf of the U.S. Government and who meet a threat threshold. So that’s 5,000 per year principal applicants, plus family members. Moreover, the authorized total for fiscal year 2009 will actually exceed 5,000 because of the likely large carryover from this fiscal year, which is all within the bills coming into effect only in July.

So if you add our significantly increased refugee processing capacity, which we intend to maximize this year and will yield significantly higher results, we believe, barring unforeseen events, if you add that to this new authority to process many thousands of Special Immigrant Visas, I think you’ll see the U.S. Government admitting, over the course of fiscal 2009, tens of thousands of Iraqis into the United States.

On assistance, we will remain in the forefront of efforts to support and sustain displaced Iraqis both inside and outside the country while, as I indicated, challenging other donors to help meet this responsibility. Most of our partners are still assessing requirements and preparing their 2009 budgets. UNHCR, UNICEF, World Food Program, and the World Health Organization and a number of NGOs plan to announce their 2009 budgets as part of an Iraq humanitarian consolidated appeal now being put together under the leadership of the UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA. The UN will announce this COP for Iraq in early December, and that’s about the time we expect ICRC to announce its 2008 emergency appeal. So we will be in a position to announce our initial 2009 contributions at some point after we’ve heard from the UN and its appeal.

Finally, as far as the potential for returns is concerned, clearly, the security situation is the number one factor, both in a general sense and in specific areas or even neighborhoods, that determines – will determine the pace and the extent of returns. It’s important to stress that this is a matter for the refugees themselves to decide. This has to be, above all, a voluntary decision. Moreover, it’s also important to note that security is not the only factor that the refugees and the internally displaced will weigh. They will need housing, livelihoods, and education for their children. And many returnees will not be able to return to their former homes. The Iraqi Government, with international support if needed, will have to establish a plan to help resettle returning Iraqis; a plan that integrates security, infrastructure development, social services, and property compensation and restitution.

The Iraqi Government has made a modest start in this direction, offering some financial incentives and transportation assistance. But this is, frankly, far short of what will be required both in terms of policy and resources. And the Iraqi Government’s unwillingness thus far to significantly share the international burden of assisting the refugees would perhaps become more understandable if it were undertaking a serious and credible effort to prepare for large-scale returns.

So with that, I think we will take your questions. Yes.

QUESTION: On that last point, how much or how little has the Iraqi Government invested in Iraqi refugees so far? And are you looking for any specific number, you know, next year or in the years going forward, aside from looking for a plan and all that? Any dollar numbers here?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Well, as I indicated, we don’t yet have the order of magnitude for next year’s Iraqi refugee needs or for the internally displaced. We’ll be waiting until about December to hear from the UN and other organizations, so I can’t put any dollar figure on that. To answer one of your questions, how much has the Iraqi Government done so far for its refugees, I’d say you could probably sum that up in the total of $25 million, which, over the course of about a year, was dribbled out to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon following a pledge in April of 2007.

But to be fair, though, the Iraqi Government thus far has a stated position on the matter. They have said that they want the refugees to go home and they want to invest in the return of the refugees. And that is laudable, in a sense, and it certainly is where we want to all end up, which is having the possibility for these 2 million refugees to go home under the right conditions in a voluntary way. But the resources, though, that the government has provided for this initiative, if you will, are, in the great scheme of things, rather small, about $200 million. They also have, lately, some ideas about creating incentives for squatters to leave homes they’re occupying so that refugees or internally displaced can reclaim their homes; again, a good, if modest, step.

But if we’re talking about a government with increasingly robust resources that professes an unwillingness to help us and the American and other international taxpayers to sustain their citizens who are caught out still in the region, then I think it would behoove them to put a little bit more in the way of planning, policies and resources behind a credible and serious effort to promote sustainable large-scale returns. Because what we’ve seen so far are modest, laudable efforts that don’t get us very far.


QUESTION: I don’t think anyone is going to argue that going from 1,608 to 12,000 – more than 12,000, and probably 13,000, in a year is good. But when you talk about the – and congratulations are in order. But when you’re talking about next year’s minimum target of 17,000, there are people out there in the – particularly in the refugee advocacy community who were looking for something substantially higher, I mean, a lot higher. I think in August, there was a group that – a coalition of these groups that said that they’re like to see more – 105,500. Is that just not realistic? You seem to say you have huge capacity and – or, that’s getting better. If it isn’t realistic, why isn’t it realistic?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: I think there would be several parts to that answer. I think it is – it will be impossible, really, to satisfy each and every critic. And the critics have their role. Their role is to challenge us. And they did so acutely and successfully, one could argue, over the past year. We may not have always appreciated the criticism, but it’s very motivating and government needs that. So I’m not criticizing the critics.

But you said I called our capacity huge. I think I used the word robust. It’s not huge. It is what it is. And it took us a year to build it up under often challenging circumstances in the Middle East. What we want to do is attain a maximum yield from that capacity. And we believe that will, in fact, significantly outpace this year’s results and could very well outpace 17,000. We don’t know, though. We have no idea. We’re standing here on September the 12th of this fiscal year, and it really is impossible to project what the result will be and, more importantly, what events may bring in the region.

But we’re confident that barring unforeseen problems, we’re going to have significant results. And we would expect that we will enjoy a minimum or floor, if you will, of 17,000. But 17,000 is not a goal. The goal is to maximize our capacity and to attain the maximum yield from that capacity. And so in terms, though, of the figures you cited that some of the NGOs are suggesting -- I don’t want to belabor the point. This is a subjective determination. There are a number of factors happening, though. For one, the registration of refugees that UNHCR conducts has been fairly stable in the last year or so. In other words, it’s not climbing and climbing and, you know, that’s your ticket, ultimately, to third country resettlement, is that you have to register with the UNHCR. And we’ve seen those numbers stabilize. That’s one aspect in the general picture.

Another is the – frankly, the improving and, one could say, dramatically improving security picture inside Iraq, which ultimately has – contains the hope of a permanent solution for people to go home. That’s why it is so critical for the Iraqi Government to do more than talk the talk about returns, because indeed, there is an increasing opportunity to make it happen. And in fact, one cannot rule out in these situations the possibility that the refugees, in large numbers themselves, will decide it’s time to go back. But will the Iraqi Government be ready for that? And that’s what we have to prepare for, I think.

But lastly, though, we believe that there’s a – sort of a panoply of requirements the international community faces in these crises. And resettlement is actually the– in percentage terms, the smallest tool traditionally available. The biggest tool is the obligation of the international community to provide assistance in place to sustain the refugees until they can go home. So we believe we have that mix correctly allocated, if you will.

QUESTION: And just one more: On the – in terms of the increase this year, the emissions, what – and potentially, as you look forward to next year, where do you see – is the Syrian cooperation still the biggest part of the increase? Or is in-country processing now going – or do you expect in-country processing to, you know, surpass what you’re seeing – what you’re seeing there?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Well, those are – those are good questions because again, we can’t be scientific in terms of predicting the future. But in a general sense, we see different trends from those we experienced in 2007 when we were trying to build the capacity and when, in Syria, we were sort of knocked out of the box for almost half the year.

Jordan is the country that will provide the greatest yield of refugees in this fiscal year that’s now ending. That’s going to shift in the future. And Jordan, really, I was – when I was talking about stagnating registration with UNHCR, it’s principally in Jordan where it has stagnated. And so we expect that refugee arrivals in the U.S. out of Syria will surpass those out of Jordan in this next year. And as well, we have now online a new stream coming out of Baghdad. Baghdad is, frankly, the hardest to predict because of the logistical challenges to doing refugee interviewing and processing in the International Zone under those unique circumstances. There are still problems that we’re encountering that we are dealing with -- they’re not stopping us, but that require more perfect solutions in terms of access and location for the interviewing, medical clearances, outprocessing, and travel out. There’s the whole – the whole pipeline needs further refinement in Baghdad. But we do hope, and it’s not scientific, that at the end of the day, or at the end of the fiscal year, that we may have in the neighborhood of 2,500 to 3,000 arrivals out of Baghdad in the fiscal year.

Finally, with Syria, it has been one of the most important variables and probably will continue to be. But when all is said and done, we have a very robust refugee processing operation in Syria now. And I was there not too long ago, in June, and I was able to confirm to my satisfaction and appreciation the willingness of the Syrian authorities, not only to continue that cooperation, but actually to allow us to expand our refugee processing over the coming year. And this has some very tangible components. The Syrian authorities agreed that larger DHS circuit ride teams will be able to go to interview Iraqi refugees, therefore that visas will be given to the DHS circuit riders reliably and on a timely basis.

The Syrian authorities agreed to a new facility for refugee processing, which will enable us to handle larger numbers and, sort of, less of a burden to other organizations who are hosting our processing right now. And they also agreed to provide perhaps readier access for some of the IOM international expertise that can help with the operation from time to time. So having been a generous host to these – to so many Iraqi refugees, and we know the bulk are in Syria, the Syrian authorities have also demonstrated a willingness to enable us – allow us to conduct our resettlement program – and we are grateful for that, and I certainly said so when I was over there -- and that despite the vagaries in our bilateral relationship, which all are familiar with, I think we have managed to agree that for humanitarian purposes we will together make this happen for the sake of the Iraqi refugees.



QUESTION: How many did you say were coming in this year under the Kennedy Special Immigrant Visa program and how many do you expect next year? I wasn’t real clear about those numbers.

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Well, these are estimates. You know, prior to the Kennedy legislation, there was legislation that authorized Special Immigrant Visas for a select group of Iraqis and Afghans who were translators. And I believe there was a cap of 500 per year, which was quickly subscribed. And this is managed not by us in the Bureau of PRM but by Consular Affairs, and we have a very able senior representative here who can, maybe afterwards, give you the fine detail that. But they met that demand. I should put it differently: They met the authority’s 500 quickly, didn’t meet the demand because the demand exceeded 500. And under the Kennedy bill and – which was subsequently amended later in the year, those cases are grandfathered into the new SIV authority, which as I said, allows for 5,000 cases per year.

If your question is what do we estimate the number to be this year, since they got such a late start in mid-July, I think -- this is a real guesstimate – it’s on the order of about 6-700. Is that right, June?

MS. TANCREDI: (Off-mike.)

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Six hundred. That’s just projecting. We’ll know, obviously, at the end of the month.

QUESTION: And then next year you expect to have the 5,000, or what?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Well, the authority will 5,000 plus what was left over from this year, so it will be –


AMBASSADOFR FOLEY: To use an earlier term, a (inaudible) authority.


AMBASSADOR FOLEY: But we, frankly, at this stage, don’t know or can’t gauge what the demand is going to be for Special Immigrant Visas. And in Baghdad, for example, Iraqis who have been associated with the U.S. Government, either directly or indirectly, but who qualify under both programs will have a choice to make. And it should be noted as well that the Congress mandated that SIV recipients would also receive refugee benefits upon arrival in the U.S. So we won’t know for some time how – where the numbers will fall and what the Iraqis will be choosing, actually.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Just another clarification on numbers. When you were talking about the number of people processed in Baghdad to be resettled here in the United States, of the 12,200 total so far, what – about a third or a quarter of those come out of –

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: No, not at all. We only got started with in-country processing --


AMBASSADOR FOLEY: -- in a modest way. Before the Kennedy bill was passed, we actually started to interview our Embassy staff. And Ms. Scialabba can talk about. The first circuit ride that DHS sent in to interview the Embassy staff, but that was less than 100 people. And we only began to embed a – what we call an overseas processing entity in the Embassy in the middle of this year. And it has now grown to its current size, which is about five – how big is the OPE in Baghdad?

QUESTION: So, just tell me – of the 12,100, how many came out of Baghdad?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: All right. Well, just to finish so --


AMBASSADOR FOLEY: So based on what we’ve now built up, we project, as I said, that maybe 2,500-3,000 will come out of Baghdad next year. But by the end of --

QUESTION: Oh, okay, I thought you said by the end of this year.

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: No, no. That’s next year. In terms of our total this year – how many will have come out of Iraq, would you say?

UNIDENTIFIED: It’s 44 so far.


UNIDENTIFIED: And we’ve probably got about 15 more people

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Yeah, so it’s under 100.

QUESTION: Right. And then from – I know it’s not directly under your supervision, but what numbers do you use about Iraqis coming back, leaving the countries of the region, leaving Syria, leaving Jordan, leaving Lebanon?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Oh, going back into Iraq?


AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Yes. Well, I don’t have those figures before me. You know, there was a minor surge back to Iraq last fall. And I believe that UNHCR and the IOM estimated that to be in – around, I believe, 30-or 40,000, something like that, at that last year. Now there have been some returns you may have seen out of Egypt that appear to have been organized by the Government of Iraq. But I think that in terms of, at least 2008, the calendar year, the numbers that the IOM have been able to ascertain going back to Iraq from outside – in other words, refugees returning, not internally displaced people going home -- is about –

UNIDENTIFIED: Sixteen thousand.

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Sixteen thousand.

QUESTION: Sixteen thousand for which period, sorry?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: This year – calendar year.


MS. SCIALABBA: We just completed a circuit ride in Baghdad, so we did 292 cases, about 700 people, which now are being out-processed at that point. But that’s just the second circuit ride we’ve done to Baghdad. We expect to go back probably the end of October, the beginning of November.

MODERATOR: Any other questions?

QUESTION: Do you know what the average processing time is for refugee applications in Jordan and Syria? And how does that compare to earlier in the year?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: I don’t, off the top of my head. But I’m going to ask our experts if they know. I mean, it’s been shortened. We’ve been able to streamline it as we’ve continued. And we hope to further streamline because we’re aiming higher next year. June?

MS. TANCREDI: (Off-mike.)

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: About six months.

QUESTION: And what was it earlier in the year? And do you know what the average time was last October and November?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: One thing I can say is you –

MS. TANCREDI: (Off-mike.)


MS. TANCREDI: I think it’s been pretty steady.

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Been pretty steady. Is that – you know, we estimate that this is fast. In other words, if you compare it to our refugee processing all around the world, it’s actually fast, because we’ve managed to compress and streamline a number of steps. This program, though, is subject to greater security check and scrutiny than other programs. And we don’t make any bones about that because it’s essential that the national security be safeguarded and that Americans have confidence in this program. So it is a bit more complicated. But we’ve really, I think, gone the extra mile to try to compress it, and we’re going to look at ways to see whether we can compress it further. But it’s been pretty steady at six months, I’m told.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Are you – do you have plans to make another visit to Syria soon?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: I don’t have plans right now for regional travel. You know, I will travel to the region as necessary. But right now, as I think I’ve explained, throughout the region the infrastructure is in place and it’s – the machine is working. And the cooperation between State and Homeland Security is working extremely well. And so it ain’t broke, so I’m not going to try to fix it. But what will bear watching really is the willingness of the international community to meet the ongoing assistance burden. So I will be engaged in that area, and that might involve travel. And as I said, we’re going to want to see some very serious efforts undertaken to promote intelligent and successful returns on the part of the Iraqi Government as well.

QUESTION: But what do you expect the Iraqi Government – how much money do you feel should be appropriate to contribute to make it – to satisfy your position?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: Well, at this stage, it’s not a question of money. It’s a question of a plan --

QUESTION: They don’t have a plan?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: -- and policies. They – well, they have, as I said, a program to give stipends to people who come back, maybe pay for travel. And even now, and this is encouraging, a program to compensate squatters, as I said. But a plan is not an overarching blueprint with a series of policies that address each of those elements, I mention, are critical to ensuring that returns – large-scale returns be successful. So a blueprint, policies, and then you can start talking about resources, resources that would certainly dwarf the 200 million or so that have been on the table so far.

QUESTION: And did you see any improvement in the situation of the internally displaced in Iraq? Are their lives getting better?

AMBASSADOR FOLEY: That’s not something I’ve been following, frankly. What I think we can say is that overall the numbers are stabilizing, they’re not going up, either the numbers of refugees or the numbers of internally displaced. And that is, undoubtedly, a reflection of the stabilizing security environment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Thank you very much.

Released on September 12, 2008

Return to This Volume Home Page.

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |  Frequent Questions  |  Contact Us  |  Email this Page  |  Subject Index  |  Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About  |  Privacy Notice  |  FOIA  |  Copyright Information  |  Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.