The List Project has several clients in Syria, and most of them are in the final stages of the resettlement process. This means that they are either waiting for security approval or a Department of Homeland Security interview which will determine if they can receive that approval. However, due to anti-government demonstrations in Syria, we have received unconfirmed reports that neither UNHCR nor IOM are processing Iraqi refugee cases.
One of our clients has been waiting to resettle in United States since 2007, and his case is still under “further security review.” He is hopeless and doesn’t know what will happen to him and his four kids and wife. He currently borrows money from friends just so he can pay the rent and feed his family. If he goes back to Iraq, he will be killed because of his affiliation with the U.S., and he can’t afford living in Amman or Turkey, places where processing takes significantly less time because of the fewer numbers of Iraqis that live there.
On Monday, U.S. government non-essential staff were urged to leave the country, and those remaining are undertaking minimum duties. Many Iraqis are now left to wonder how long it will be until they return, and if the U.S. has an alternative plan for Iraqi refugees in Syria if the situation continues to deteriorate.
Because of the protests and the resulting crackdown that has led to the deaths of almost 500 people, the Syrian government has tried dispel the idea that this is a nationalist uprising, instead trying to blame the uprisings on Salafis and foreign elements within the country. Our Iraqi clients have noticed this and have also been on the receiving end of the threats from some of the paranoid populace. One of the greater accusations and unfounded rumors that has been gathering steam (and was apparently reported on state TV) in the past few days is that these Iraqis are bringing weapons into the country and arming the anti-government protesters. It is one of the tried and true tactics of authoritarian governments to blame minority populations for unrest and it is sad that we are seeing this reflected on Iraqis in Syria, most of whom have already escaped persecution in their own country.
Currently our clients are hiding in their homes or apartments most of the time because they fear to go outside. They are asking what will happen to them if things get worse in Syria and whether the United States has any special solutions. They feel lost and are losing faith that they will be assisted.