For Immediate Release: March 3, 2008
New York – The United States admitted 444 Iraqi refugees in the month of February, a nominal increase over the disappointing numbers resettled in recent months. However, the Department of Homeland Security does appear to be stepping up its efforts to interview Iraqi refugees for resettlement. Roughly 6,000 Iraqi refugees have been interviewed by DHS this fiscal year, and 3,300 of these interviews were completed in the past two months. Human Rights First asks DHS to continue to build capacity to interview extremely vulnerable Iraqis in the region.
The rate of Iraqi arrivals is still troublingly low given the State Department’s goal of resettling 12,000 Iraqis by September 30 and given the scale of the need. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 80,000 to 100,000 particularly vulnerable Iraqis urgently need to be resettled in a third country. To date, the U.N. refugee agency has referred more than 18,000 of these cases to the United States. “By any measure, the United States must be doing far more to protect the fundamental rights of millions of displaced Iraqis and to alleviate their suffering,” says Amelia Templeton, advocate for the Lifeline for Iraqi Refugees project at Human Rights First
Human Rights First also notes that more than a year after the Secretary of State established a task force to coordinate assistance and resettlement to Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, the U.S. has resettled fewer than 3,500 Iraqis, provided uncoordinated and insufficient humanitarian aid to the region, and failed to engage other governments in Europe and the Middle East to develop a true international humanitarian response.
“The United States has a proud history of protecting refugees,” says Eleanor Acer, Director of the Refugee Protection Program, “but the President has not even acknowledged that the Iraqi refugee crisis exists. This massive displacement of people could have grave implications for the future of Iraq and the entire region. The administration should marshal all of the resources at its disposal to assist vulnerable displaced Iraqis.”