Iraqi Refugees Face Tough Plight

As plans to bring peace and democracy in Iraq have given way to bloody sectarian fighting in the streets of Baghdad, many Iraqis have responded by voting with their feet and leaving the country, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports.

In the 3½ years since the United States invaded Iraq, Jordan has seen an influx of nearly 1 million Iraqis, according to some estimates. For a nation of just under 6 million people, that's a huge number to absorb.

Parts of Amman might as well be called Little Baghdad. The cafes are full of Iraqis discussing the latest news from home, and the streets are jammed with thousands of new cars.

Couric sat down with a group of Iraqis who were affluent enough and lucky enough to make it to Jordan.

Haitham Noime was a successful engineer in Baghdad. He has no job in Jordan, but had no choice about leaving.

"We are waiting for our death in Baghdad," Noime says.

Both Zuhair Sabri Ali and his wife, Aida Samarrai, are doctors. They've lost their careers and their country, and are now struggling to hold on to their families.

"I want it to be safe and I can go there and live again," Aida says. "This is, I think, the hope of all people. I don't understand what is happening in our country."

Ghassan Rassim still has a law office in Baghdad — but he can't return.

"Somebody is coming to shoot you and you don't know who. And why," he says.

The influx of refugees from the war next door has meant higher prices for things like food, gas and housing. In fact, home prices in some neighborhoods have doubled in the last year alone — and some Jordanians are none too pleased

"If you ask anyone, you feel it's too much hard to live in Jordan" because of the influx of Iraqi refugees, says one shopper at a local marketplace where middle-class Jordanians come to buy things like produce.

Despite the obvious pressure, the government in Jordan insists there is no refugee crisis, a statement that surprises outside experts.

"The silence that we see throughout the region and beyond is really stunning. Nobody wants to admit that this is a refugee crisis," says Bill Frelick with Human Rights Watch.

But as tough as life is for many of the refugees in Jordan, they are generally able to support themselves. Iraqis of lesser means are migrating to Syria and Egypt — and facing an even tougher life.
  • Melissa McNamara

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