By Andy Birkey

Minnesota Independent
http://minnesotaindependent.com/59024/ walz-mccollum-armenian-refugee-relocation
May 18 2010

Tim Walz and Betty McCollum are asking Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton to commit funds for the relocation of Iraqi Armenians -- who,
as Christians, face persecution -- back to Armenia. The lawmakers
say that Armenia has taken significant steps to welcome the refugees,
including offering land and citizenship.

"It is in the interest of the U.S. that Iraqi Armenian Christian
refugees be provided the opportunity to start a new life in safety
and peace," said McCollum in a press release on Tuesday. "The Armenian
government's offer to receive refugees is very generous, and I believe
the U.S. should provide the humanitarian support necessary to ensure
their successful relocation and integration into Armenian society."

While not a signatory on the letter, Rep. Collin Peterson has joined
Walz and McCollum in supporting the effort.

Here's the full text of the letter:

May 14, 2010

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State U.S. Department
of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We are writing to urge the Obama Administration to make a commitment of
funds to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist in
the resettlement of Iraqi Armenian Christian refugees from Syria and
Jordan to Armenia. It is our understanding that the State Department
is in the process of formulating the Administration's response in
support of UNHCR's 2010 Global Appeal for Iraq. We feel strongly that
it is essential that an initial and specific U.S.

commitment is made to meeting the needs of Iraqi Armenian Christian

According to a March 30, 2010 UNHCR press release, conditions for Iraqi
refugees both inside and outside of Iraq are becoming increasingly
desperate at the very time that international concern appears to be
fading. "The dwindling media interest in Iraqi refugees," the UNHCR
says, "is not matched by a decline in the scale of the problem."

With a planned U.S. troop withdrawal by the end of 2011, dwindling
international support for Iraqi refugees, and the campaign of violence
against Iraqi Christians continuing unabated, the U.S. must fulfill
its obligation to this vulnerable population.

As you know, the State Department's 2008 allocation of $1 million
to UNHCR Armenia has enabled more than one thousand Iraqi refugees
to begin to rebuild their lives via resettlement in Armenia. It has
been a cost-effective and regional solution for a group that might
otherwise seek resettlement in the United States.

UNHCR's "Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees" released in
January 2010 identifies hundreds of Iraqi Armenian Christian refugees
registered with UNHCR in Jordan. The number of refugees in Syria,
the primary asylum destination for Armenian Christians fleeing Iraq,
is known to be significantly larger. Of the more than two million
refugees who have fled Iraq, only a small portion, less then 20
percent, have been registered by UNHCR thus far. Since hopes for
successful repatriation and reintegration in Iraq have failed to
materialize it is certain that the need for resettlement of Iraqi
Armenian refugees will persist for the foreseeable future.

It is our understanding that the Government of Armenia has made a
formal commitment to U.N. High Commissioner Antonio Guterres to:
offer all Iraqi Armenian refugees a track to citizenship; formally
participate in UNHCR's Iraqi resettlement program; and make land and
facilities available for refugees from Iraq to rebuild their lives.

Armenia has, in fact, delivered on these promises substantially over
the last two years.

The U.S. commitment of additional funds to UNHCR will allow UNHCR in
Armenia to extend its assistance to Iraqi Armenian Christians while
allowing for an accelerated resettlement of additional refugees from
Syria and Jordan to Armenia.

Again, we urge the Obama Administration to sustain the momentum of
what UNHCR, the United States, and Armenia have already accomplished
on behalf of Iraqi Armenian Christian refugees.


Betty McCollum Frank Pallone, Jr.

Adam Schiff Tim Walz Raúl M. Grijalva Charles A. Gonzalez