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Iraqi refugees and the humanitarian costs of the Iraq war: What role for social work?


Scott Harding, School of Social Work, University of Connecticut, 1798 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117, USA. E-mail:


Harding S, Libal K. Iraqi refugees and the humanitarian costs of the Iraq war: what role for social work?

The US-led invasion and war in Iraq has created one of the most significant refugee crises in recent decades. International nongovernmental organizations have partnered with local organizations in Jordan and Syria to provide humanitarian aid to some two million displaced Iraqis. Field research indicates that, as with other humanitarian crises, few trained social workers have contributed to policy and practice with displaced Iraqis. The case of Iraq provides an opportunity to consider how the social work profession can shape comprehensive global refugee policies and programs. This role is appropriate, given mandates for the profession to promote social justice and human rights. Using the case of Iraqi displacement, we illustrate the complexities of humanitarian services provision and the need for trained social workers to participate in humanitarian relief and development programs. We argue that a variety of social work institutions and actors should become more robust advocates for shaping just refugee policy and practice.