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YOUR WORLD TODAY
World Refugee Day: 'Passage to Hope'
Aired June 20, 2007 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome, everyone.
Today is World Refugee Day. The U.N. says last year was one of the worst for refugees since the general assembly began marking the day. That was seven years ago. In fact, the number of refugees worldwide has increased for the first time in five years, mainly due to the war in Iraq.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Israel's new defense minister, Ehud Barak, says he will allow Palestinians at the Erez Crossing who are in need of medical assistance only into the country. Dozens of people, including many Fatah supporters, have been stuck at the terminal for days after factional fighting left Hamas in control of Gaza. They want Israeli authorities to grant them safe passage to the West Bank.
HOLMES: Meanwhile, Israel mounted airstrikes against two rocket launchers in northern Gaza after two Kassam rockets were fired towards southern Israel. That's according to the Israeli military.
Islamic Jihad did claim responsibility for the rockets. The Israeli airstrikes are the first since Hamas took control of Gaza last week.
MCEDWARDS: Well, there is some renewed speculation that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg may run for president of the United States. On Tuesday, the mayor announced that he is changing his party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated.
Now, at this hour, Bloomberg is scheduled to make his first public appearance since announcing this change in affiliation. We'll see what he has to say.
And those are some of the headlines for you this hour.
I'm Colleen McEdwards.
HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes.
Thanks for your company.
Up next, a CNN special report with our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.
MCEDWARDS: It's called "Passage to Hope: World Refugee Day 2007," and it begins right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Escaping conflict, seeking safety, displaced and in despair. More than 20 million people from every corner of the globe. A staggering Iraqi exodus now swells the ranks of the uprooted. Homeless in their homeland, crossing borders, sometimes continents, on the move from a country in chaos.
See the faces. Hear the stories of the refugees making a passage to hope.
And now, from Amman, Jordan, Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to our special coverage of World Refugee Day 2007. CNN has called this program "Passage to Hope," because the last think people have when they flee the devastation, the terror, the war, famine, pestilence, crisis in their own homes, is hope. But what we have seen and what we are seeing is that for many after they have left, after they have managed to escape the immediate devastation, hopes for a better life so often go unfulfilled.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says that this year, there has been a 14 to 15 percent increase in the number of people who are moving around the world, homeless and in search of new refuge. An increase, and we have reporters all over the world to document that.
By far, the biggest contribution to that increase is the devastation, the war, the civil war inside Iraq.
Iraqis now are voting with their feet on the future of their homeland. They are flat-out fleeing.
2.2 million have come outside of Iraq into homes here, into homeland and refuge here in Jordan and neighboring Syria . Another two million or so are on the move inside their own country, inside Iraq, trying to see whether they can find some safety.
Many of those people who are coming here are professionals. They're people who used to work, for instance, with the United States, with the U.S. forces there. They have come to try to find safety because, as some are saying, they have one big bull's eye now stamped on their backs.
But what they're finding here is a country who is trying do the best, but not always enough. What they're finding is that they can't get to the United States.
AMANPOUR (voice over): Early this morning, Iraqis living in the Jordanian capital Amman line up for free medical care. They have fled the relentless violence in their homeland next door, and this is how they now survive -- relying on handouts and little help from their friends.
Esraa Abass Alaby is one of them. She worked as a desperately needed Arabic translator for U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But insurgents kept threatening to kill her. They found out where she lived and they made chilling threats to behead her unless she stopped her work. She fled here seven months ago.
ESRAA ABASS ALABY, FMR. TRANSLATOR: I just feel more than the refugee from inside. I just feel I'm lost, without any home. You know?
To be honest with you, I'm not eating that much. I'm not taking care of anything.
I just feel -- I just feel there is -- I'm living in a black life. Just trying to get a light. You know? To go towards it.
AMANPOUR: But waiting in Jordan, lonely, friendless and emotionally spent, her only contact with family e-mails and weekly phone calls, Esraa is hoping to move to the United States, the country she did, after all, put her life on the line for. But like many of the 33,000 Iraqi asylum seekers registered here with the United Nations, processing the most vulnerable for resettlement in other countries is excruciatingly slow.
ALABY: I think they should do -- they should help me, because I'm alone. I'm just a girl. I didn't know do anything wrong. I just was trying to help my people and to help the American military.
AMANPOUR: Esraa is not alone. The war in Iraq has destroyed many lives and torn apart many families.
Ghada is now a single mother. Her husband disappeared after they fled Baghdad. And she, too, now survives in Jordan on the kindness of others.
GHADA JEORGE, REFUGEE (through translator): My only wish is that even if there is one day left of my life, I want to spend it with my family. I feel like a child who wants to be hugged by her mother because loneliness is killing me.
AMANPOUR: Many of the estimated 750,000 Iraqis who have fled to Jordan scrape by on the edge of existence. We met Umm Raeb on the street, selling dusters and herbs to survive, and trying to send the little she saves to her family in Baghdad. She lives in one crowded room with seven others, all widows from various wars in Iraq's violent past.
"Saddam is gone, and we have become the victims. How come we as old women can't be with our children, our sisters and brothers? Why are we here and they are there?" she asks.
It's a question Esraa also asks every single day. She tries to stay in touch with her family back in Iraq, but with every passing day, she feels increasingly lost.
AMANPOUR: Now, Esraa, you heard her say and many are saying that they feel the U.S. has a moral obligation to have many more Iraqis to come and resettle in the United States. The State Department says that since October, only 71 Iraqis seeking third country status, as it's called, to be resettled in the U.S., have been allowed in. Only one last month in May and only one in April.
Even the State Department says that is embarrassing and they must do better. They say they're trying do, but it's certainly not quick enough.
Many, many people are trying to get in there. Many people think that they should be allowed to. But some are saying that perhaps the United States feels that it might be an admission of failure of its Iraqi policy if it allows too many people in.
Then there's the question of screening Iraqis, they say, for potential terrorist links. But many others are saying that those who want to get in would surely already have been screened because many of them worked for U.S. forces, U.S. contractors, and others inside Iraq.
Now, we go inside Iraq to CNN's Hala Gorani, where the other unfolding refugee story is one of internally displaced people -- Hala.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christiane.
Among the millions of internally displaced in Iraq, at least, we're told by the UNHCR, a third of them are children. They are among the most vulnerable forced to flee their homes.
We spoke to two families whose children are on either side of Iraq's bitter sectarian divide.
GORANI (voice over): Eight-year-old Taibe (ph) is sick with the flu. Her mother strokes her burning forehead in the tiny rundown house their family now calls home.
Taibe (ph) is one of about 700,000 children in Iraq forced to flee their homes. Iraqis uprooted from their neighborhoods and the violence there.
In a child's words, Taibe's (ph) 10-year-old sister Hadiah explains why they left. "There is no school left," she tells me. "They shot it with a mortar and destroyed it."
"What scared you the most?" I ask her. "The shootings and the mortar. They are very loud."
They are Shiites. They moved from a mixed neighborhood outside of the capital to a relatively safer section of central Baghdad. These children have witnessed violence, seen friends and family die, and haven't been to school in over a year. A half hour's drive away, when in peaceful times could be playmates for the young Shiite girls, Sunni children. Their family moved away from a Baghdad district where Shiites are the majority to Sunni-friendly Falluja.
They're squatters in a bombed-out building. The kids are idle, all day. They sit in the staircase killing time.
No furniture in the home. No toys. Both parents out of work, the father says one of his young sons does odd jobs in Falluja for a few dollars a day.
"My kid is working, helping make food for $3," he says. "That is our income."
And across Iraq, thousands of children are out of school, up to one million, away from friends, away from the kind of routine kids need and crave. From stable homes to tent cities like this one in Najaf, from school playgrounds to dirty fields.
Back in central Baghdad, the two older daughters of the Shiite family show me where they and their seven other relatives live. When night falls, they pull out mats and blankets and lay them out on the floor to sleep.
Fifteen-year-old Yabir says her best friend died in a bombing. "She was like a sister," she tells me. "And suddenly, I lost her."
Death, constant fear, displacement, poverty, a fate many adults would find difficult to endure, forced upon the youngest of the country's citizens -- the children, the future of Iraq.
GORANI: Well, for these children, experts say the long-term psychological effect could be very severe. Also the loss of education, post-traumatic stress, which means that even if security is restored to this country, the effects of this internal displacement could last for many years to come -- Christiane.
AMANPOUR: That's right, Hala. The stress on the people, especially on the children, and the stress on the infrastructure of the systems. For instance, here and in Syria, which are trying to help.
We're going to go to a break now, but when we come back we'll look at the refugee crisis in Africa; notably, in Darfur, one of the worst humanitarian crises under way right now.
CNN's Nic Robertson will report from there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We do not have electricity and we do not have water. This is why people are leaving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our life is very harsh. We suffer from a lack of humanitarian and health services.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to "Passage to Hope," our special coverage of World Refugee Day 2007.
I'm Nic Robertson in the Jubail (ph) refugee camp just outside Goz Bieda in eastern Chad, just across the border into Darfur, not far from here.
Several million people have been forced from their homes. A quarter million of those Darfur refugees have ended up here in Chad. But there is a changing dynamic.
Violence has been increasing in Chad. Over the past year, about 150,000 Chadians have been forced out of their homes in this border region. Many of them are underfed. Men of their children are ended up in malnutrition clinices just like this one.
ROBERTSON (voice over): Six-month-old Abu Bakr Osman (ph) is three pounds, one and a half kilos underweight. This is his second visit to the emergency medical clinic in this displaced people's camp in Chad, and doctors are worried. He is acutely malnourished.
His mother Fatima (ph) says her other five children are hungry, too. They are victims in the latest front of Darfur's four-year conflict.
Chadians forced from their homes in violence, ignited by the crisis across the border in Sudan. Their condition is shocking some aid agencies.
JOHANNE SEKKENES, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: Twenty percent of the kids under 5 are basically malnourished as we speak.
ROBERTSON: In the past year, more than 150,000 Chadians, mostly ethnic Africans, have fled a combination of Arab militias and anti- Chadian government rebels. Children, Doctors Without Borders say, are dying twice as normal from the harsh camp conditions, and not enough is being done.
SEKKENES: The response to this situation, specifically for the Chadian (INAUDIBLE) or displaced population, is, as I see it, late, and up to date insufficient.
ROBERTSON: But it's not just getting enough food to Chad's displaced that has aid officials worried. It is the ease with which violence in Chad is spreading as weapons become more easily available, even among the displaced.
LUKE BRANDT, UNHCR CHIEF GOZ BIEDA REFUGEE CAMP: It's totally different, because people are -- have been more likely to solve the problem with weapons instead of talking together.
ROBERTSON: Saed Ibrahim Mustafa (ph) used to be the sultan here. His kingdom, Darcila (ph), along the border with Darfur, was the size of Maryland. And he negotiated all disputes, particularly the long- standing arguments over land rights between nomadic Arab herders and African farmers.
"In our state, if there's a problem between farmer and herder we resolve it traditionally," he says, "by talking. We have been living like this for centuries and centuries."
A few months ago, he was effectively fired by the Chadian government for trying to defuse the growing tensions. He blames both Sudan and Chad for arming the people.
"If the government does not solve the problem," he says, "each community will defend themselves and the problem will get bigger and bigger."
It's these concerns of escalation that have aid officials worrying even more about the future. Chad's displaced already get barely two-thirds of their food needs.
FELIX BAMEZON, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME, CHAD: We had provisions for 50,000 internally displaced people. And now we are feeding 150,000.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Three times.
BAMEZON: Three times more, which means that the situation is not getting better. It's getting worse, actually.
ROBERTSON (voice over): Food is also the most pressing problem for Chad's quarter million Darfur refugees. Aid organizations have cut daily adult rations from 2,500 calories, the accepted international minimum, to 2,100.
Mohammed Suliman Kamis (ph) and his wife struggle to feed their nine children twice a day. One son wants to be a minister, one daughter a teacher, and another a doctor. They study hard, but money is so tight, Kamis (ph) explains they often have to spend all day gathering firewood just to earn a dollar for more food. He says they would all go home tomorrow if it was safe enough.
(on camera): As you walk around the refugee camps, you begin to realize just how permanent they are -- fences, pathways, almost small villages in their own right. And Sudanese laws will make it so much harder for these people to go back home, because, they state, if you've been off your land for more than a year, then you have no entitlement.
(voice over): Hopes among refugees and displaced alike are growing that Sudan's commitment to an international peacekeeping force will be more than the empty promises of the past, and so pave the way for their return. If not, underlying frustrations will grow.
Chad's border will likely become even more volatile. And the humanitarian crisis here will grow.
ROBERTSON: And the immediate situation for those displaced people and refugees could be about to get much worse. The rainy seasons are coming. The aid agencies here expect floods potentially going into some of the camps where the displaced people are, spreading disease and increasing those cases of malnutrition.
Many of us have grown familiar with the situation in Darfur thanks to celebrities like Mia Farrow and George Clooney. They've made everyone aware of the situation here. But few average people actually get to meet everyone who has fled the suffering, fled the pain, fled the violence of Darfur.
Our Richard Roth caught up with one New York taxicab driver who meets many people and touches their lives every day.
IBRAHIM SHUMMO, TAXI DRIVER: What street?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At West 12th.
SHUMMO: West 12th.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That corner of Manhattan is a long way from Darfur, Sudan. That's where cab driver Ibrahim Shummo escaped from.
SHUMMO: The situation is still very bad. It is very bad.
ROTH: The Sudanese driver had been arrested twice. How do you feel working in New York as a taxi driver?
SHUMMO: It's very stressful. Many people drive crazy.
ROTH: Do you get bigger tips when you tell them you're from Darfur?
SHUMMO: No -- 49th and 8th.
HILLARY LOVE, PASSENGER: When did you come here?
SHUMMO: I come almost eight years ago.
LOVE: Before the genocide. I'm very upset about it. I think it's terrible. I think the worst thing is that we can definitely do something about it and we haven't done anything.
SHUMMO: This is the one from...
LOVE: Is that your family?
ROTH: Ibrahim sometimes shows riders pictures of family back in Sudan. His wife and children live with him in Brooklyn. LOVE: Have a great day.
SHUMMO: OK, thanks.
ROTH: How was the tip?
SHUMMO: A big tip, really big tip.
ROTH: Ibrahim says Darfur news has affected his driving.
SHUMMO: Maybe I got a ticket, maybe I get an accident.
ROTH: The driver is from Darfur, Sudan.
ISABELLE BORGATTA, PASSENGER: Oh, really? Oh, my.
ROTH: What do you think?
BORGATTA: That's a better place to be from than to be in. Right now.
ROTH: What do you think about the Darfur situation?
BORGATTA: Well, I think it's just absolutely shameful, that we've let it go on so long, that we haven't been more pro-active.
SHUMMO: Thank you so much. Have a good day.
ROTH: The president of Sudan, President Bashir, if he got into your taxi, what would you do or say to him?
SHUMMO: I drive him to jail (INAUDIBLE).
ROTH: Ibrahim says there are more than 100 New York cab drivers from Darfur.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have family that's still there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to keep going.
ROTH: The fact that he's from Darfur, is that going to affect the level of your tip?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
ROTH: You are tough.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a New Yorker.
SHUMMO: What do you think of the U.S. sending people to Darfur?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they should. I think they should send peacekeeping troops absolutely. I think they should be there instead of where they are. On the left, straight ahead behind that motorcycle.
And Yes, I've increased my tip because he's such a nice driver.
SHUMMO: OK. Just pray a lot to Darfur people, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got it.
ROTH: Richard Roth, CNN, New York.
ROBERTSON: You know, and some of those views the same views that we hear here. We talk to the refugees here. This is a malnutrition feeding center for children. The number of displaced children that are coming in here is going up very fast.
Aid officials are very concerned because they see malnutrition among the displaced people, the Chadians, is rising fast because they're not getting enough food. But whether we talk to displaced people here or the refugees in the camp around me, they all say if only there were that international peacekeeping force in Darfur, they could all go back home.
Back to Christiane for our continuing coverage of refugee crises around the world -- Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Nic, thank you very much.
And as you reported there, it is some Hollywood titans who have been trying to get the ball moving on this. And also, Mia Farrow, the Hollywood actress, in her U.N. role has put pressure on her colleague, Steven Spielberg, to use his connections with the Beijing authorities, because he's working on the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, to get them to try to step up to the plate and pressure Sudan, their ally, into accepting that international peacekeeping force.
It hasn't been moving as fast as it should be. And there's been so much handwringing over what to do about Sudan. Desperately needed, a proper policy to get the Sudanese to cooperate on this issue of Darfur and the crisis there.
When we come back after a break, back to Iraq and the spiraling number of refugees heading out of their homeland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: Now, I'm optimistic, but I think a lot of big changes need to be made. I don't want to have to keep going to refugee areas. I don't want to have to send people back to their home where it's not secure, and then have to see them five years later because it exploded again into violence because we did not have proper justice.
I don't want to do that. And I think it is -- it is time that we can handle it better as an international community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our special coverage of World Refugee Day 2007.
As we reported in the beginning, for the first time in five years, the number of refugees around the world has gone up. The UNHCR has reported about 10 million people have fled their homes and their homelands, mostly because -- the number is rising because of the number of Iraqis who are fleeing, some 2.2 million.
AMANPOUR: Now, according to a U.S. report, 40 percent of Iraq's professional class has had to flee the violence. Among them, doctors and all sorts of other professionals. Joining me right now is a Doctor Ahmed Allawi. He himself fled Iraq about six months ago.
Why did you flee? Obviously, the violence, but are they targeting doctors, who they so desperately need?
DR. AHMED ALLAWI, IRAQI DOCTOR: That's for sure. They are targeting doctors right there.
AMANPOUR: And what happened to you?
ALLAWI: I had been threatened many times to be killed there, I didn't leave my job, because as I -- as we were seeing, that they want to stop all of the life in Iraq and stop all of the possibilities and the national services there.
AMANPOUR: You decided you just couldn't stay any longer?
ALLAWI: That's right.
AMANPOUR: You have come out not just because of the violence, but because you want to go on and study more and become a surgeon.
AMANPOUR: You couldn't do that in Iraq?
ALLAWI: No. That's not possible inside Iraq, because all of the doctors and professors have left Iraq already.
AMANPOUR: As we reported, some 40 percent, nearly half of the country's professional classes is leaving. What does this mean? I mean, if you, a doctor leaves, and all of your friends, who are doctors, are trying to get out, what does that mean for people trying to get treatment there?
ALLAWI: I guess, by then, all the diseases will be disseminated all over Iraq and there is a health disaster, it will be there. There will be no doctors within years.
AMANPOUR: What did you see mostly, when you were there, and treating people in the hospital? What kind of illness did you see there?
ALLAWI: Well, mainly, were bullet injuries there, and stab wounds, all kinds of violence injuries, but also, we have little cases of road traffic accidents and other normal diseases.
AMANPOUR: But the most is the violence?
ALLAWI: The most is the violence, yes.
AMANPOUR: And what about here? What is it like coming here to Jordan? Are you welcomed with open arms? Are most of your friends welcomed? How is it living as a refugee here?
ALLAWI: Well, it is a little bit difficult to be a refugee here in Jordan. But I guess we, as doctors, have a better chance than the ordinary people to live here in Jordan or even Syria.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, like most refugees, presumably, you want to go back home.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that's going to be possible anytime soon?
ALLAWI: Soon, no. I don't think so. I think it will be far away; about 10 or 15 years.
AMANPOUR: And what will you do in the meantime?
ALLAWI: Well, I'm trying to get my full graduation, and work as a doctor here. And help my people here outside Iraq.
AMANPOUR: Doctor Allawi, thank you very much indeed for joining us. And good luck to you.
As we said, so many, many people have come out. We're going to go back now to Baghdad, where there are also, in Iraq itself, as we have reported, some 2 million Iraqis who have had to flee their homes, who have had to go to other towns and cities just trying to escape the violence wherever they find it.
We also reported some countries are taking in a lot of refugees and others, like the United States, are not. We're going to go now and talk to our correspondent Fredrick, in Baghdad, who has an interesting and heart-warming report of refugees finding a very unusual safe haven.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, you are absolutely right. So many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are fleeing their country, many of them to Europe and especially to Sweden. Sweden is taking in more Iraqi refugees than any other country outside of the Middle East.
We traveled to Sweden and talked to Iraqi refugees about why so many of them making that journey.
(Voice over): All the children here are Iraqi. But this day care center isn't in Baghdad or Basra, it's on the outskirts of Stockholm. All of the children here are refugees.
Aliya Sulja Bear (ph) fled from Iraq to Sweden nine months ago with his wife and his children, Eunice (ph) and Hassef (ph). He says he paid smugglers $20,000 to bring his family here Eunice (ph) and Hassef (ph) could have a better future.
"I hope they can get a good education and continue to progress in this country," Ali says.
A country Ali is finding it hard to adapt to. The snow and long dark nights of winter he can tolerate. Learning Swedish is more of a challenge. That makes it difficult to find work. An engineer by training, Ali now helps out in his brother's electronics store, putting together satellite dishes and selling TVs.
His nephew Haidar also works here. Haidar works grew up in Sweden but visited Iraq a few weeks. One of the first things he witnesses what this, an ambush near Basra, victims unknown. Haidar recorded the scene on his cell phone, his hand was trembling. He says he will never return to Iraq.
PLEITGEN (on camera): Do you think you could ever move to Iraq and live in Iraq?
HAIDAR NATUR RASSOUL, IRAQI REFUGEE: No.
PLEITGEN: Why not?
RASSOUL: Because I like Sweden. I come here about 10 years ago. I like to live here.
PLEITGEN (voice over): And he's not alone. About 100,000 Iraqis leave in Sweden. Many came while Saddam Hussein was in power. Now with the security situation in Iraq deteriorating, a new wave of refugees is seeking asylum in Sweden. Almost 9,000 Iraqis despairing of their country and afraid for their lives made the journey to Sweden. By comparison, the U.S. took in fewer than 300 Iraqi asylum seekers last year.
Sweden is generous. The refugees get free housing, health care, and a work permit as soon as they receive asylum. Even so, the Swedish migration minister says more must be done.
TOBIAS BILSTROM, SWEDISH MIGRATION MINISTER: I don't think any country in the world is doing it's share right now, because with the present situation the greatest exodus since 1948. We all have a responsibility for what is happening. And we all should try and give support, and give shelter, to those who are the most vulnerable ones.
PLEITGEN: Ali says he considers himself to be more fortunate than so many millions of his countrymen, to have escaped from Iraq and give Eunice and Hassef the chance to have a better future.
PLEITGEN: Now, Christiane, the man in the report says he does considered himself to be among the lucky ones, but what a journey it is that all of the refugees have had to put behind them. Right now, people traveling from Iraq to Sweden are trying to get there, are taking a detour via China. That turns into a month long ordeal. Several, or multiple illegal border crossings, often by families, with little children -- Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Frederik, thank you very much.
Indeed, the UNHCR, which was set up after World War II to cope with the world's flood of refugees, the UNHCR has said precisely that, that countries should do everything they can to provide refuge to these most vulnerable people right now. And they're mindful of the fact that as Frederik reported in some of those European countries, and elsewhere, some of these populist policies, some of this xenophobia that has been stirred up over the last few years against foreigners and refugees, people need to balance that with the absolute order -- rather the absolute necessity to provide refuge to these legitimate refugees, who are fleeing their homes right now.
Some of Iraq's most vulnerable are the tiny Christian minority. They had a fairly good style of life. They were able to practice under Saddam Hussein, but now, they're having to flee, and many are doing so. Many are refugees and relatives inside the United States. And those relatives, as CNN's Jill Dougherty reports, are trying their best to help.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They pray in the language of Jesus Christ, Aramaic; Iraqi Chaldean Christians living in Detroit, Michigan. Now, in the vicious sectarian violence of today's Iraq, their relatives, always a minority, are in danger. Nearly 600,000 Iraqi Christians have fled Iraq to countries like Jordan and Syria, according to the Chaldean Federation of America.
The fervent prayer of Linda Yusseif, is to have her 24-year-old son, Sandy, living with her in Detroit. Since he was over 21, he could not get asylum in the U.S. He fled Iraq and now lives in Jordan. He's deaf and mute.
He was kidnapped, she says, because they thought since he had relatives in the U.S. he had to have money. He was held for five days. His uncle paid a ransom to free him. Almost no Iraqi Christians are being given asylum in the United States, because of security concerns. The U.S. has promised to accept 7,000 Iraqis, but in April, the State Department says it gave refuge to just one Iraqi. So Iraqi Christians in Detroit have launched what they're calling operation R-4, research, rescue, relief, resettle.
JOSEPH KASSAB, CHALDEAN FEDERATION OF AMERICA: Most of the people here, they received threat letters, there were threat letters tagged on their doors. They also were, you know, victims of kidnapping, paid big-time ransom. They want to get their loved ones back.
DOUGHERTY: The Chaldean Federation of America is processing 20,000 applications from Iraqi American families trying to get their relatives to the U.S. They analyze the data and submit it to the U.S. State Department and the United Nations.
KASSAB: This is a file --
DOUGHERTY: Some files contain photographs they say document torture. Others have copies of written threats from groups like Al Qaeda.
KASSAB: Note, if you do not do according to what we order you and go on the right way, your store will be bombed and you will be killed. God is witness that we have informed you.
Sarah hands over documents she says show how her relatives were tortured, their house confiscated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please help them! Please help them!
DOUGHERTY: Operation R-4 is run by volunteers. Some of them, like Rafaad Eta, fled Iraq after the 1991 Gulf war.
(On camera): Is it worse, is it about the same, or?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's absolutely worse. It's like heaven and hell, exactly.
DOUGHERTY: Their faith doesn't just make Iraqi Christians targets, their families in Detroit say, sometimes it's thugs who want their property. Either way, they say, they're in danger.
(On camera): Half this neighborhood in Detroit is Chaldean, and almost everyone has a relative who is either still in Iraq or has fled to surrounding countries. Everyone we spoke with wants to get them out as soon as possible.
(Voice over): This is a poorer area. Home to refugees from the Gulf War, but the Chaldean community says it's ready for more.
JANE SHALLAL, CHALDEAN AMERICAN LADIES CHARITY: We help them with food, furniture, finding them jobs. Clothing, anything, you name it.
DOUGHERTY: A couple blocks away, Linda Yousef (ph) counts the days until she sees her son. All I can do, she says, is rely on God that he will get out. Jill Dougherty, CNN, Detroit.
AMANPOUR: CNN's Arwa Damon shows us how difficult it is just to get to your destination. It's one thing crossing the Iraqi border, finding refugee in one of the neighboring states. But trying to get permanent refugee status, trying to settle elsewhere, as again, we're reporting, in the United States, is very difficult. Here is her report about one Christian family stuck in Turkey.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Warren Kostamelo (ph), it's one of 21 locations where the Turkish government places Iraqi refugees.
Here they can walk through the streets safely. And when we first saw Iraqis here they appeared to be happy. But once we spent time with Thetoma family, we found something else.
(Voice over): Every day, with out fail, Goerges Toma (ph) and his family walk to the police station. Every day, they must prove they have not left town, and every day, they wonder when they will be allowed to leave. They're not criminals. They're Iraqi refugees. And they want to go to America. Any place where they can settle down, take a job, live a life.
"Whatever is in America," Gorges says. This is like a prison, the family fled here after Georges started getting threatening phone calls. About his work as an electrician for the U.S. military.
"They called me, two, three times on the phone," he remembers. "They told me to be careful and not work with foreigners." Then Georges' brother, who drove military water trucks, was murdered.
Georges' mother still mourns the son she lost to violence she says she can't understand.
(On camera): For most members of the Toma family assimilating to life here in Kostomono (ph), with a population of about 60,000, has proven to be nearly impossible.
"I miss my sister," 11-year-old Rahad, the youngest, says. Her big sister Soudra (ph), couldn't wait any longer to get to the U.S. Instead, she went back to Iraq to enter a convent.
Georges explains, "It was too hard for her here, not speaking the language, being confined, not feeling accepted. She preferred the hell that is Iraq than Turkey, he says. That was a psychological impact of this place on her."
The two youngest just finished the school year; 12-year-old Roany (ph) adapted best, picking up Turkish, but Rahad struggled, often coming home in tears after other children picked on her. Now, finally good news. Verbal notification that sometime soon, they will be resettled in the U.S.
The 27-year-old Salwan (ph) hopes America will bring him stability, a job. He wants to get married. Adjusting won't be easy, he says, but he believes Americans will help.
"Hard or not," he says, it doesn't matter. He just wants out of here. And he knows he can't go back to Iraq. So this family waits for the final call that will send them to a country will there will be more to life than a daily trip to the local police. Arwa Damon, CNN, Kostamono (ph), Turkey.
AMANPOUR: Now, as we have reported, while Iraqis are the newest and biggest number of refugees that have caused the worldwide refugee problem to increase for the first time in five years, there are other, the Palestinians, for instance. More than 4 million are termed almost permanent refugees, and they're dealt with a different arm of the U.N., the UNRA (ph). When we return we'll talk to CNN's Ben Wedeman in Gaza, now, where that Palestinian refugee crisis is being swelled by the latest violence.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kids really can bounce back. I mean, they can be in the worst situation, and if they have a little bit of hope, they really can create so many opportunities for themselves.
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AMANPOUR: I'm Christiane Amanpour in Amman, Jordan. Welcome back to our continuing coverage of World Refugee Day.
Here in Jordan, officials are concerned about what's big going on in the Palestinian Territories. In Gaza, for instance, where this week, Hamas militants basically took over Gaza, and now there are two camps, Fatah and it's Palestinian, 2.5 million of them, in the West Bank, which are neighbors here in Jordan. And about 1.5 million under Hamas control in Gaza.
Beyond that, beyond that crisis, and humanitarian crises, Palestinians have become almost permanent refugees while they're waiting for their own homeland since the end of World War II. There are more than 4 million who are outside the Palestinian Territory and have pretty much no hope of ever going back. Our Ben Wedeman is now in Gaza City and reports on that situation -- Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christiane, when we were coming into Gaza, we saw at the Ares Crossing, the main crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, there are dozens of people fleeing Gaza. Many of them with relatives in the Fatah movement.
The situation on the border cross is very dire. Some of those people have been there for six days. I even spoke to a woman, who had a four-month-old baby, who said they desperately need to get out of Gaza. They want to get to the West Bank. This is really just the latest in a long history of upheavals that have made life miserable for the Palestinians.
As you mentioned, the Palestinians have been living in refugee camps for decades, some of them since 1948. Over time, life for many of them has stabilized. They live for instance in solid houses, but nonetheless, the passage of time hasn't made life any better for many of these refugees.
WEDEMAN (voice over): They rap about the new Middle East, calling it a region on fire; burning with violence and anger, despair and disappointment. They call them themselves G-Town. The group leader Mohamed Al-Mughrabi explains where the G comes from.
MOHAMED AL-MUGHRABI, MUSICIAN: We're the refugees of Jerusalem. Our camp is like ghetto. It's like the ghettos -- like in America. You have ghettos there. We have ghettos here.
WEDEMAN: Their ghetto is the Shafat Refugee Camp, a crowded community of more than 30,000 Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in 1948 when Israel was created. A local leaders say unemployment here runs more than 50 percent.
Faheed Tatah (ph) runs a drug rehabilitation center.
There's hashish, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, says Faheed. And the problem is getting bigger, not smaller.
"Before, maybe we had 10 or 15 drug users in the camp. Now we have 300 or 400." Faheed (ph) says the center currently treats more than 30 drug addicts and is planning to expand.
But against the odds, some here are trying to make life livable. Hallid Sheik Hami (ph) owns the studio where G-Town records its music. He collected funds to build the camp's only swimming pool. A crude makeshift affair, but it does the job.
They're now surrounded by Israel calls it's security barrier, meant to keep out suicide bombers. Palestinians call it the apartheid wall, and it's a wall that G-town's Mohamed says deepens the camp's isolation.
"My father and I used to go and lie on the grass under a tree over there," he recalls. But now, they have even taken the trees. More bittersweet poetry for refugee rappers.
WEDEMAN: And Christiane, what makes it more bitter than sweet is the fact that most Palestinians realize a resolution to the plight of Palestinian refugees simply isn't in sight, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Ben's going to be there monitoring what's going on in Gaza. And in the meantime, the other group of institutional refugees, are the Afghan refugees, who fled the Soviet invasion of their country back in 1979. Many of them still outside of their country, some of them in Iran, from where Aneesh Raman reports.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, we're at an Afghan refugee camp in the northern part of Iran. And for all of the Afghans we have spoken to here, there is dwindling hope they will ever return home.
RAMAN (voice over): From the innocent to those weathered by war, it's in these faces you get a glimpse what it is to be an Afghan refugee. For 5,000 of them in northern Iran, this is life, and they are the lucky ones. Only 3 percent of the 1 million legal Afghan refugees live like this, in government run camps, that are essentially small cities. Complete with a Main Street bakery, a medical clinic, and vocational training like this design class.
It's meant to prepare teenagers for work when they go back to Afghanistan, but almost all of the students have been refugees their entire lives. They've never seen their home. And for 20-year-old Zahra Panahee (ph) this life is lacking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Being a refugee is very difficult. When you live in another country you always wait for aid from foreign governments, for the situation to change at home. It's humiliating.
RAMAN: Humiliating is a word Zahra (ph) uses often. She's smart, driven, has ambitions to graduation from college, but as a refugee in Iran, she can't do that here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There is not possibility for me to enter university. Refugee girls have to weave carpets, and then they get married so they can pass their lives. I don't predict any future for myself. I'm so hopeless that I can't see anything right.
RAMAN: Hopeless and weaving. It's not anything close to what Zahra wants, but the sad truth is that hers is still an envious position. She's a legal refugee. Many others in Iran are not.
(On camera): Right now, in Iran, there are an estimated 1.5 million illegal Afghan refugees. They're not allowed at all in camps like this, and it seems for them, time is running out. According to the UNHCR, Iran has deported 100,000 of them in the past two months alone. Some of them have alleged abuse. Iran has denied the charges.
(Voice over): The news isn't lost at the camp. Seventeen-year- old Hassan, a refugee at birth, is in high school here, and his reasons for staying focused are very simple.
At least I have learned something in school," he tells me. "When I go back to Afghanistan, at least I'll have something. Otherwise, I'll have nothing to do but cultivate poppy. But his mother, who fled Afghanistan, when she was five, has years of unfulfilled hopes behind her.
"We are refugees," she says. "That's our life. We're living in misery, and we'll keep having to live like this."
A stable Afghanistan is all these refugees want, a chance to go home, that for many would be a welcome first. Aneesh Raman, CNN, at the Torbutajam (ph) Camp in northern Iran.
AMANPOUR: We call this "Passage To Hope". And we do hope that the lives of these refugees will get better. But this year, for the first time, there are more, not less refugees moving around the world. And today, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there are just as many refugees who fled that country as did the tyranny and oppression of Saddam Hussein. Thank you for watching our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.
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