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Our Iraqi Refugee Problem

Perhaps the greatest scandal of our government's war policy has been its all-talk approach to the Iraqi refugee crisis. The U.S., as occupier and steward of Iraqi democracy, has a moral responsibility to house those seeking asylum from what I'll … Read More

By / August 22, 2007

Perhaps the greatest scandal of our government's war policy has been its all-talk approach to the Iraqi refugee crisis. The U.S., as occupier and steward of Iraqi democracy, has a moral responsibility to house those seeking asylum from what I'll call NGN: non-government nasties in the shape of jihadists, sectarian militias and the IED-wielding insurgents next door. Dissent has a must-read essay in its Summer issue about the tired and poor we've been turning away in droves:

But in response to a doubling of the annual funding appeal by UNHCR in January and an explosion of critical media coverage that followed, the Bush administration was forced to make an about-face, or at least give the impression of doing so. The State Department announced the creation of a task force on Iraq refugees and displaced persons, and the administration pledged eighteen million dollars toward UNHCR’s 2007 budget, also promising to expedite resettlement of up to 7,000 Iraqi refugees by September. Soon afterward however, the State Department backtracked, saying that “very intense security screening” might cut the number in half. Keeping things in perspective, that’s eighteen million dollars allocated toward refugee assistance in 2007 in comparison to the more than ninety billion dollars the U.S. government is budgeting for the Iraq War and occupation in 2007. BY WAY OF CONTRAST, Sweden, which has a community of Iraqi-born residents roughly the same size as that in the United States, accepted the vast majority of asylum claims made last year by more than 9,000 Iraqis. Australia, a nominal member of the “Coalition of the Willing,” admitted 2,150 Iraqi refugees between 2005–2006 as part of its Offshore Humanitarian Grants program. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has appeared to follow Washington’s lead, denying more than 90 percent of the applications for asylum made by Iraqis in 2006. The United Kingdom is also the only European country to have deported Iraqi citizens living in the country illegally. The asylum status granted thirty-eight Iraqi nationals who had fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was rescinded, and they were deported to northern Iraq, regarded at that time as sufficiently stable by the UK government.

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