WASHINGTON - Although many have ties to the
United States, only one fifth of Iraqi asylum seekers to the United
States have been accepted, says a new report examining the progress and
problems with the U.S. government's pledge to help Iraqi refugees.
"Despite a Congressional mandate intended to expedite Iraqi refugee
processing times, only a small portion of eligible Iraqis have been
granted a safe haven in the United States," says the advocacy group Human Rights First (HRF). "The result is that thousands of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis are stuck in Iraq
and other countries in the region, facing danger and destitution,"
specifies Ruthie Epstein, author of the report and project coordinator
for HRF's Iraqi refugee program. HRF is calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to address the issue and honor the United States' pledge to resettle persecuted Iraqis who worked with the United States in Iraq.
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Since the 2003 U.S. military intervention in Iraq, "the country is dealing with one of the largest humanitarian and displacement crises in the world," reports the humanitarian organization Refugees International (RI). Approximately 1.5 million Iraqi refugees have fled to Syria,
Jordan, and other neighboring countries while 2.7 million have been
forced to leave their homes but remain in Iraq. "Most are unable to
access their food rations and are often unemployed; they live in
squalid conditions, have run out of resources, and find it extremely
difficult to access essential services,"
notes RI. Moreover, adds the group, "the necessary conditions for
returns to take place in safety and dignity do not exist" in Iraq.
Those that have tried to go home have found their houses occupied or
destroyed, neighborhoods divided and threatened by violence, and
communities lacking crucial social services.
March marked the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq,
and currently over a hundred thousand U.S. troops remain in the
country. While U.S. President Barack Obama has committed to withdraw combat forces
over the next 18 months and remove all forces by the close of 2011,
some analysts have put forth a different definition of "ending the
war." Among them, Institute for Policy Studies fellow and Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis has called on the
Obama administration to bring home all troops; remove all U.S.-paid
foreign mercenaries and contractors and cancel the remaining contracts;
close and turn over to Iraqi authorities all U.S. military bases; and "give up all efforts to control Iraqi oil."