Tags: Iraq | Middle East

Iraq Refugees Caught in US Visa Quagmire

Wednesday, 13 Jul 2011 12:33 PM

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Thousands of Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government or American companies who are entitled to special visas to enter the United States are stuck in Iraq. The slowdown in allowing entry is a result of heightened security concerns, The Washington Post reports.

The visa program was set up in 2008 to hand out 25,000 visas to Iraqis Iraq, Middle Eastwho worked for the United States or U.S. firms. However, just 7,000 Iraqis have been admitted to the United States and refugee advocates report just 50 were allowed entry in April.

Refugee advocates complain the United States is reneging on promises made to those who risked their lives during the war and warn that attacks on those who aided the United State will increase as U.S. troops withdraw. Kirk Johnson, founder of the List Project, which tracks the status of those who with U.S. organizations, told the Post the programs “are, by almost every metric, a failure. There are a lot of open, unused slots every year that are just sitting there because of complications.”

State Department officials blamed most of the delay on tougher screening methods recently required by the Department of Homeland Security. Questions were raised about screening in May after two Iraqis living in Kentucky were arrested on terrorism charges. The two were charged with sending cash, explosives and missiles to Iraq for use against Americans, the Post reported.

Of the Iraqis admitted by the visa program about 80 percent served as translators for the U.S. military. Among the tens of thousands waiting in Iraq are Haider Abduwahab and Ghassan Enad, both who served as bodyguards for NBC News crews. “We feel like we’re stuck. We don’t know if we’ll make it or not,” Abduwahab told the Post.

The 35-year-old applied for the refu­gee program in September 2009 and hopes to move to the United States with his wife, three children and parents. “Sometimes if you try to move to a safer place, you hesitate because they might call and it’ll be time to go,” he said according to the Post. “You might want to buy a new car or perhaps open a small store, but you can’t because you’re waiting.”

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