Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Increasing numbers of Iraqi refugees leaves Congress with difficult decisions

On Tuesday a U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee heard testimony regarding the plight of refugees in Iraq, NPR reported January 17th.

The current situation is spiraling out of control, with approximately 100,000 individuals per month fleeing Iraq. Refugees International’s Kenneth Bacon estimates that the total number of internally displaced Iraqis is 1.7 million, with an additional 2 million Iraqis seeking asylum elsewhere – usually in neighboring countries such as Jordan and Syria.

The U.S. has granted asylum to only 466 Iraqi refugees. Ellen Sauerbrey, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, claimed at the hearing that the low number is due to tightened entry restrictions that have been imposed on Iraqis for security purposes. In response, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland stated, “The fact that only 400 have been able to make it through our process to be able to come to America... speaks volumes as to the need for us to find a policy that will be more accommodating, so that we can accomplish some of our responsibility here to help those that are in need.”

Currently, the U.S. is focused on assisting those refugees targeted because of their work as translators, or in other capacities, with the U.S. Military. Sami (a pseudonym), an Iraqi translator for the military, testified at the hearing from behind a screen for fear of revealing his identity. At this point, only 50 translators have been granted visas.

Only a small portion of the Iraqi refugees are fleeing because of a connection with the U.S. military. Most flee to escape the unrelenting sectarian violence that has ravaged the nation. Hesitancy to help is a major concern, with the economies of Jordan and Syria already strained by the large influx, leaving most refugees unable to adequately support their families and in a state of uncertainty.

Despite the obvious need for additional assistance, some Democrats are critical of the administration’s request for $20 million for refugee aid. Others, such as Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, believe that a larger amount should be requested as part of next month’s budget submission. As the number of Iraqi refugees increases and more time elapses, Congress’s decision only grows more difficult.

For the full article, click here.


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