Lawyer accuses UN of squandering US aid meant for rebuilding Christian, Yazidi areas in Iraq

(Reuters/Muhammad Hamed)Workers remove rubble during the rebuilding of a building destroyed during fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic state fighters, eastern Mosul, Iraq, April 21, 2017.

A lawyer representing the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil has accused the United Nations and the U.S. State Department of squandering money that was supposed to be used to rebuild Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq.

Stephen Rasche, the legal counsel and director of internally displaced people resettlement programs for the Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, told a House panel on Tuesday that the aid programs that are meant to help Christians and Yazidis are virtually having no impact due to the lack of oversight.

He contended that the aid programs are so mismanaged that some of the aid money will benefit Iraqis who took over the communities instead of the Christians who fled from the areas due to persecution.

"While status reports from UNDP work in Ninevah purport to show real progress in the Christian-majority towns, on the ground we see little evidence of it," Rasche told a House Foreign Affairs panel on Tuesday, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

Rasche alleged that the some of the projects facilitated by the United Nations' Development Program (UNDP) in Christian and Yazidi areas are "in most cases cosmetic by nature" even though they appear to be more extensive in official U.N. documents.

He noted that some of the school-rehabilitation projects in the towns of Teleskov and Batnaya "take the form of one thin coat of painting of the exterior surface walls, with freshly stenciled UNICEF logos every 30 feet," but the rooms inside the buildings remain untouched and unusable.

"There is no water, no power, and no furniture. Bear in mind that these are government schools, which were due to open today," he said.

The lawyer also denounced a UNDP report that claims to show reconstruction projects being done in the town of Telkayf to assist religious minority communities, even though there are no remaining Christians in the area.

"There are no more Christians in Telkayf. They were forced from this town by acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes," he said, adding that many of the Sunni Arab residents who welcomed the Islamic State terror group remained in the area.

He further noted that about 10,000 Christian families have been expelled by ISIS from the town, but there is no U.N. aid planning for those refugees.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress had allocated more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugee assistance and included specific language to ensure that part of the money would be used to help Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims — groups that have been deemed by the State Department as victims of genocide in 2016.

Human rights advocates have been complaining for the last three years that Christians, Yazidis and other religious minority communities in Iraq have been essentially cut off from receiving U.S. humanitarian and reconstruction aid because of a policy that requires the funds to be funneled through the U.N.

Over $265 million in funds being provided by the U.S. for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq is being funnelled through the U.N. via the UNDP.

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