Walter Pincus featured TLP in a Washington Post article on Monday. Pincus discussed the struggles of streamlining the bureaucratic process to bring over Iraqi refugees despite maximum effort that is being expended. Congressional testimony from Wednesday’s hearing in which TLP’s Kirk Johnson and Iraqi refugees detailed frustrations of the process was highlighted:
Ibrahim [an Iraqi refugee who testified] said a new program, passed this year by Congress, opened up processing in Baghdad instead of requiring people to get to Syria or Jordan to be interviewed.
But, he added, the State Department coordinators in Baghdad are understaffed, don’t have enough resources to process applications and require applicants to come inside the Green Zone — though there are not enough staff members to escort them through checkpoints.
“This has led to a Catch-22. A mechanism for people to escape Iraq has been created, but only those with sufficient connections to enter the Green Zone can take advantage of it,” he said.
TLP commends the Washington Post for bringing attention to the issue and would like to recognize the efforts of the small State department team working to process Iraqis through the Baghdad Embassy. As Johnson emphasized in his congressional testimony on Wednesday:
We have had very welcome and positive interaction…with the recently arrived refugee coordinator at the Baghdad embassy, who has been tasked with implementing the Kennedy legislation instruction to begin in-country processing for U.S. affiliated Iraqis.
Her efforts, and those of the very small team working with her, are without question commendable. We must not forget the harrowing circumstances in which they labor. Their laudable work on the ground, however, has not been accorded the resources necessary to successfully implement this legislation.
Furthermore, TLP has learned that the embassy’s refugee coordinator and her the team has recently taken concrete steps to overcome some of the logistical pitfalls faced by Iraqis seeking interviews.
In his testimony, Johnson went on to clarify where the responsibility lies for effectively streamlining a successful processing effort:
[T]he State Department needs access, logistics and support to help the Iraqis that are in-country….Congress has expressed its intent. You guys have been trying to address this issue, but I think the responsibility relies with the president…I can’t come to any other conclusion that this is a low priority or a non-priority from the White House. It’s been a priority for Congress, but in the absence of any word from the president on this, I think that the bureaucracies don’t have the force and the will from the president to act.
Visit the White House website and ask why nothing has been done or even said on an issue that affects our national security, moral standing, and leadership role in the world.