Red tape de­lay­ing visas for Iraqi al­lies

Per­se­cu­tion feared at home

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY KRISTINA WONG

Thou­sands of Iraqis, in­clud­ing many who served as in­ter­preters and con­trac­tors for the U.S., are caught in bu­reau­cratic de­lays as they await visas or refugee sta­tus to come to the U.S., ac­cord­ing to re­gional ex­perts, who say the lives of some are in dan­ger.

About 30,000 Iraqis who have been ap­proved con­di­tion­ally for refugee sta­tus can­not come to the United States be­cause of a cum­ber­some se­cu­rity- clear­ance process, a panel of ex­perts hosted by the Truman Na­tional Se­cu­rity Project said Mon­day.

Con­di­tional ap­proval for refugee sta­tus means that the U.S. has ver­i­fied that the ap­pli­cants would be per­se­cuted in their home coun­try.

Kirk John­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the List Project to Re­set­tle Iraqi Al­lies, said the Iraqis’ lives are in dan­ger be­cause of their as­so­ci­a­tion with U.S. troops and added that an Iraqi he knows of re­cently es­caped an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt.

“The United States has not made it a pri­or­ity to stand by those who helped us,” Mr. John­son said Mon­day, the ninth an­niver­sary of the start of the Iraq War.

He said it should not be too complicated to dis­tin­guish be­tween Iraqis who have risked their lives to help the U.S. and those who wish to migrate to the U.S. to do it harm.

“Iraqi al­lies were the key to the suc­cess of the surge and our coun­terin­sur­gency strat­egy,” said Mike Breen, vice pres­i­dent of the Truman Na­tional Se­cu­rity Project and found­ing di­rec­tor of the Iraqi Refugee As­sis­tance Pro­gram.

“We must stand by those Iraqis who stood with us, not just be­cause it’s the right thing to do, but also for the sake of our na­tional se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity in the Mid­dle East,” Mr. Breen said.

He said other na­tions are watch­ing to see how the U.S. treats its friends.

Me­lanie Nezer, chair­woman of the Refugee Coun­cil USA Ad­vo­cacy Com­mit­tee, said the num­bers of Iraqi refugees al­lowed into the U.S. have dropped sig­nif­i­cantly over the years.

In 2009 and 2010, about 18,000 Iraqis were com­ing to the U.S. an­nu­ally. In 2011, the num­ber dropped by al­most half, to 9,388.

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