For those Iraqis that remain in their country, or are spread thoughout the Middle East, few options remain for them which would guarantee their well-being. The obvious option for them is to apply for Special Immigrant Visas that would bring them to the U.S. However, this program has been strained from the beginning, and has fallen far short of its goal of providing 5,000 visas per fiscal year. In addition, newly instituted enhanced security procedures are adding to the alreadly long waits that these Iraqis are facing before they are allowed into the country.
So what does this mean for U.S. affiliated Iraqis? First, let’s give you a rundown. Of those still in Iraq, some have left the cities and are hiding in the countryside, while others remaining in urban areas seek to keep as low a profile as possible. Some even move from house to house to avoid detection. Many are separated from their families.
Of those outside the country, many are short on money, as they were forced to spend their savings on fleeing the country or paying for expensive apartments. There are few ways to recoup this money, as many of the countries that accommodate them do not allow them to work legally.
All of this while waiting for a seemingly endless process of applications, interviews, medical checks, biometrics, and security procedures. Many Iraqis have been waiting for years.
When Iraqis began finding out that this fiscal year the United States had let in significantly fewer Iraqis than the years before, panic set in for many. A large number of visa denials were passed down recently, which caused even more concern. Many Iraqis contemplated what they would do if they were denied a visa and were left to the mercy of militants in Iraq. The List Project received, and continues to receive pleas daily from these Iraqis.
Militant groups have long since pledged that they would seek out and attack Iraqis with ties to the U.S. after our army withdraws. This week’s grisly attacks, including the execution of the quasi U.S. affiliated Sahwa members, serve as a reminder of what may be in store for any Iraqi connected with the U.S. presence.
In the wake of all these fears, some Iraqis have begun to discuss smuggling themselves out of the country and into Europe or Australia. This is an obviously dangerous journey which requires paying exorbitant fees to people smugglers, who since the invasion have had a booming business in Iraq. These smugglers then facilitate all the required documentation and in the past many Iraqis have gone to either Syria to begin a journey to Europe, or Malaysia or Indonesia to begin a journey to Australia. Both of these journeys require transit across large bodies of water. The danger is evident, as many have died in years past from drowing after their boats have capsized in rough seas.
Iraqis are well aware of this danger and know that they could potentially die, but many most likely feel it is better to die this way than to wait for the militias to come for them in Iraq.