Today, on World Refugee Day, The List Project officially turns one year old.
Much has transpired in the world of Iraqi refugees this past year including setbacks such as forced deportations in Britain and Sweden, visa restrictions in Jordan and Syria, and the frustratingly slow pace of resettlement in the US. In countries that have been generous in accepting Iraqi refugees, entrance restrictions have been tightened.
Furthermore, news stories have detailed the exploitation of Iraqis in Syria as young girls are forced into prostitution. Barred from obtaining employment, Iraqis in Syria and Jordan spend their savings on the cost of living and have no option but to work secretly and in the underground economy.
We have also heard of the glacial pace of US admittances and the bureaucratic nature of the resettlement process fraught with multiple interviews, long waiting periods, and lack of resources. The fortunate ones who are resettled in the US often find menial jobs at restaurants and hotels meager in compensation as the lure of returning to Iraq for a bigger pay-check, at the risk of death, remains.
However, notable advancements, too, have been made that inspire hope. The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act was enacted into law by the US government and has increased special visas for Iraqis directly working with the military forces to 5,000 a year for five years. The act has also established the much needed in-country processing procedure so Iraqis need not become exiles in Syria or Jordan or elsewhere just to apply for resettlement in the US. So far, The List Project has resettled over 90 Iraqis in the US but the list keeps growing and currently contains about 1,000 names.
More needs to be done and the most immediate, beneficial, and obvious solution for the Iraqi allies problem is a humanitarian airlift. Denmark has airlifted its Iraqi allies and Britain proposed to do the same. At the end of the Vietnam War, the US resettled over 100,000 Vietnamese refugees; and the 1990s saw the airlift of thousands of Kurdish allies and Kosovar refugees. Despite talk about increased rates per month of Iraqi resettlement, the US can airlift its allies in immediate danger at very little cost compared with the entire Iraqi venture in total. If only there was motivation from the administration to do so.
Since the US invasion on Iraq in 2003, the war has taken toll on the civilians and on the neighbouring countries. more are being displaced within Iraq and majority trying to seek asylum abroad going to the european continent after the strict measures applied by the neighbouring countries towards them. In its latest report on the Iraqi refugee crisis, Amnesty International said that the treatment of Iraqis seeking protection abroad had taken a sharp turn for the worst. “Coercive mechanisms, such as the withdrawal of assistance to propel people to return, as well as forcible return and the failure to recognise individuals as refugees, have become more widespread,” it said. “The number of countries now attempting to deport rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers is at a record high.”
Asylum policies across Europe vary widely, particularly given that some of the recent entrants to the EU used to be the countries of origin of asylum-seekers. France will assume the presidency of the Europe Union on 1 July, and has said that it will present a new pact on immigration and asylum.
“We hope that this will be an occasion for countries to co-ordinate their policies not by having a minimum common denominator on asylum but to take the best practices that exist,” Mr Guterres said.