Human Rights First recently released its new report: Living in Limbo: Iraqi Refugees and U.S. Resettlement, which details the continued lack of progress relating to resettling Iraqis in the United States. Although the United States has greatly improved its efforts from where it was only a few years ago, the resettlement process is still seeing a great deal of Iraqis fall through the proverbial cracks. They wait for a variety of things, most notably their security checks, the process of which has yet to be streamlined into something that will take under five months(on average). In these five months many of these Iraqis in “limbo” within Iraq or the greater Middle East invariably find themselves without savings or a means to care for their families. Some still find themselves the targets of violence and discrimination because of their affiliation with the United States.
Programs designed especially for these U.S. affiliated Iraqis, the ones who are arguably at the greatest risk, are in many cases the programs with the greatest problems. For instance, the report finds that
According to our interviews with pro bono Attorneys who represent U.S. Afilliated Iraqis, the SIV process can take from 9 to 17 months form start to finish.
As the report states, these bureaucratic bottlenecks “undermine [the] purpose of the [the] programs.” Indeed. The SIV application process is often so tedious that many Iraqis eligible to apply simply look for other (and more time consuming) means to get to the U.S.
As of September 2010, the State Department has issued just 2,524 SIVs to Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government, military or contractors…[This] is only a small percentage of the 15,000 SIVs available for the first three years of the five-year program.
This is a valuable report that addresses the wide variety of issues related to resettling Iraqis in the United States. It also provides a number of recommendations for the United States government. It is our hope that the Obama administration looks closely at this report and continues to seek to improve conditions and decrease the timetable of arrival for U.S. affiliated Iraqis, and more broadly, all of those iraqis who are in harms way seeking refuge.