This Sunday's Washington Post featured an editorial that called on the U.S. government to protect the 110,000 Iraqis who helped the U.S., coalition forces or the reconstruction effort.
The editors highlight the risks this group of Iraqis face: already, 257 translators have been killed. Even more have had to flee their homes, and all the while we have managed to resettle less than 200 Iraqis this fiscal year, which ends September 30.
From the article:
"The obstacles Iraqis face to be recommended by the UNHCR make these low resettlement rates all the more astonishing. Iraqis cannot apply for refugee status from within Iraq; they must first brave the dangers of crossing a border. If they make it, those fleeing violence and persecution may also find that because of a broad legal provision disqualifying refugees who have provided "material support" to terrorist organizations they can be denied resettlement in the United States if they have paid ransoms for kidnapped relatives. According to Human Rights First, in some cases involving kidnappings the UNHCR has decided not to refer even deserving applicants to the United States out of concern that the irrational "material support" provision will bar them from entry."
At EPIC, we have tried to bring focus to this group of Iraqis who are in particular danger with blogs and interviews with people like Kirk Johnson. We are happy to see press on the issue. However, we also believe that to properly address the crisis there must be a more comprehensive agenda. In other words, the U.S. must focus on the entire refugee and at-risk population, not just on those who helped us. The crisis has reached extraordinary numbers, and we must do our part to fund requests from NGOs and aid organizations and to provide bilateral assistance to the region.
The New York Times now maintains a page dedicated to the Iraqi refugee crisis, which you can access here. We are happy to see this coverage and we encourage the press to be aware that this crisis has no boundaries: as Sabrina Tavernise points out in last Friday's NY Times, even Iraq's privileged classes have depleted their resources and are now in desperate need of help. With a tradition of helping vulnerable refugee populations, including the resettlement of over 100,000 Vietnamese after the end of the conflict there, the U.S. must maintain its tradition by doing its part to alleviate the Iraq crisis.