Human Rights First has issued a report detailing the progress, and in some cases, lack thereof regarding The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act which was passed in January of last year.
The report points out that “the infrastructures are established, and more than 20,000 U.S. affiliated Iraqis have made applications to the SIV (Special Immigrant Visas) and U.S. refugee resettlement programs. However, the information we have been able to obtain indicates that processing times are long, and the number of Iraqis who have actually made it to the United States remains quite low.”
The report specifically finds that of the 15,627 Iraqis that have been verified (which itself is a low number) as being affiliated in some way with the United States, only around 9 % or less than 1400 people have been resettled. Additionally, only 960 applications to the Special SIV program have been submitted, a startling number, given that many more thousands qualify.
The reasons behind these figures again point to the fact that Iraqis, as well as the administrators of these programs have to trudge through the bureaucracy of these historically underfunded and understaffed programs. Furthermore, the amount of security checks and and delays related to verifying a candidates application can take in some instances years to process. This is time which these refugees in many cases do not have.
These lags are also complicated by the fact that in-country processing (i.e. from within Iraq) is taking longer due to the fact that the United States Embassy in Baghdad is understaffed.
There is also the fact that in states such a Syria, which has received the largest number of Iraqi refugees, there is no such mechanism for which to be granted refugee of SIV status. Of the million plus that fled to Syria, those with hopes of making it to the United States are severely limited by the fact that relations between the two countries have been strained by the Iraq War, as well as the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
These and other observations, as well as a number of recommendations can be found in the report: