Just 68 Iraqi refugees resettled in US in last six months

USA Today is reporting that “The United States admitted 68 Iraqi refugees in the six months through March, a tiny percentage of those fleeing their homes because of the war, State Department figures show. The United States has been unable to accept more Iraqis in part because of the time needed for background checks, which have become more stringent since 9/11, Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of State, told USA TODAY“.

[Before a big conference on Iraqi refugees was held in Geneva about ten days ago, the U.S. said it could take up to 7,000 Iraqi refugees this calendar year.  However, in response to a journalist’s question at a press conference, Sauerbrey said the U.S. could { theoretically } take up to 25,000 Iraqis this year.]

A man gathers scattered tomatoes next to his destroyed food stall after a bomb attack in a market in Baghdad on 30 April 2007 -- Ali Jasim for Reuters

From October 2006 through March, the United States gave refugee status to more than 15,000 people. How Iraqis compared with some other groups:
• Somalis: 3,077
• Iranians: 2,468
• Burmese: 1,518
• Cubans: 1,339
• Iraqis: 68
Source: State Department

At a conference [in Geneva] earlier this month, the UN “called the Iraqi refugee crisis the most serious in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians following the creation of Israel in 1948, and it urged other countries around the world to share the burden”.

“Sauerbrey said that, after Saddam Hussein was deposed, Washington had focused on resettling Iraqis who were returning to their country. That left the U.S. government and the U.N. ill-prepared when an explosion of sectarian violence in Iraq last summer triggered a major exodus, she said …

Washington should be making a greater effort to take in Iraqi refugees, said Kristele Younes of Refugees International, a non-profit organization. She said the United States has a ‘responsibility toward all Iraqi civilians who have been forced from their homes because of a war the United States started’.

About 50,000 Iraqis leave their country every month, and 2 million have fled Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to the United Nations. Most have settled in neighboring Syria and Jordan. The influx has stretched health care and other social services there.

The United Nations has registered more than 100,000 Iraqi refugees and seeks long-term resettlement for 20,000 this year throughout the world, says Ron Redmond, the chief spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees …

The U.S. government may not have enough personnel to process refugees, said David Mack, vice president of the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank. ‘But it’s clear that the administration is not making a serious effort to do so because this undercuts the message they want to get out: that security in Iraq is improving’, Mack said.

…[Refugees] have special status as people who can show a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ if they return home. The United States admitted 450,000 non-refugee immigrants from October 2005 to September 2006, of whom 1,255 were Iraqis, according to the most recent figures available from the State Department.


2 thoughts on “Just 68 Iraqi refugees resettled in US in last six months”

  1. The given reason by the state department seems a bit suspicious — how is it that Iranians are a lesser security threat? The implication is that the security cheks for Iranians are less stringent than for Iraqis.

    The rationale is probably a cover up — that by accepting a wave of refugees the US would have to admit it created a situation in Iraq which is worse than under Saddam.

    This would shatter the “Mission Accomplished” propaganda.

  2. I think you are right to have picked up on the discrepancy between the numbers of Iranians admitted to the U.S. for resettlement, and the very few Iraqis — clearly, the State Department believed that Iraqis were living under a less dangerous regime than Iranians (at least until the closed-door meeting on Iraqi refugees in Geneva, where the U.S. was more-or-less read the riot act, and the U.S. delegation looked a bit shell-shocked after the experience, and they seemed to have shuffled quickly to come up with the 25,000 figure for this year, though nobody can really explain why the processing is going so slowly)

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