The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brenda Bowser Soder,,O -202/370-3323, C - 301/906-4460

US Meets Target for Resettling Iraqi Refugees

Rights group says additional measures needed to protect at-risk Iraqis


Human Rights First welcomes the U.S. announcement that it has met
its goal of resettling 17,000 vulnerable Iraqi refugees by September 30
and calls on the United States to devote additional attention and
resources to resolving a number of key issues.

"The U.S. has made significant strides in its efforts to bring
vulnerable Iraqi refugees to safety. Even so, additional steps are
necessary to address remaining impediments that delay the timely
resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees, including Iraqis who have
been targeted because of their work with the United States or with U.S.
groups," said Ruthie Epstein, Researcher and Advocate at Human Rights

A year ago, the United States set a target of resettling 17,000
vulnerable Iraqi refugees during its 2009 fiscal year, and when that
year ended this week (on September 30), it had met - and exceeded -
that goal by resettling 18,833 Iraqi refugees. These refugees - who
now live in safety in the United States - include religious and ethnic
minorities, survivors of torture, and Iraqis who faced danger inside
Iraq due to their work with the United States or U.S. groups, and their

Earlier this year, Human Rights First issued Promises to the Persecuted: The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2008,
a report that identified some of the impediments that continue to
undermine the effectiveness of the resettlement effort and outlined
necessary reform measures. Specifically:

  • Improve the Security Clearance Process: The White
    House should review, improve, and devote additional resources to the
    multi-agency security clearance process, so that the applications of
    refugees and others who meet all of the requirements for admission to
    the United States are not delayed for lengthy periods of time - at
    present, up to a year or more;
  • Reduce Processing Times: The State
    Department should increase staffing at the Embassy in Baghdad and the
    International Organization of Migration, and the Department of Homeland
    Security should increase the frequency and staffing of circuit rides to
    the region, so that the refugee applications of thousands of
    U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and their families facing danger can be
    processed expeditiously;
  • Ensure Post-Arrival Services: Congress, the
    State Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services
    should continue to work to improve post-arrival services - including
    basic housing, health care, and job search assistance - for Iraqi
    refugees and other new refugee populations to whom the United States
    has offered safety from persecution.

Looking forward, Human Rights First urges the United States to set a
specific target for its resettlement of Iraqi refugees over the next
year to ensure that the multi-step multi-agency process stays on track,
to demonstrate to the international community its ongoing commitment to
address the humanitarian crisis unleashed by the war in Iraq, and to
encourage other countries to increase their own efforts to protect the
most vulnerable Iraqis. The UN refugee agency estimates that 53,183
Iraqi refugees in the Middle East and Turkey are in need of

While only a small proportion of vulnerable Iraqi refugees will be
relocated to safety through resettlement, the majority of the 3 million
displaced Iraqis will remain in the region. "As the U.S. military
disengages from Iraq, it is more important than ever that the United
Sates government develop a comprehensive plan for addressing this
displacement crisis," said Eleanor Acer, Director of Human Rights
First's Refugee Protection Program. "Not only does this country have a
moral obligation to address the plight of Iraq's displaced people, but
it is also in the strategic interests of the United States to do so. "

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Read "Promises to the Persecuted: The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2008"

View HRF graphs showing progress of resettlement

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.