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Continuing a series begun here.
Michael Totten discusses the Iraq war with an Iraqi, in early 2005:
At one point, apropos of something I can’t remember, Ahman said to me: “I can tell you in one sentence how my country feels about your country.”I remembered reading that conversation - it struck me as one of the defining statements of the entire war, it did indeed seem totally right. And I mentioned it to Michael when I met him in Baghdad three years later, and both of us laughed again - the sort of laugh that is the only possible alternative to tears.
“Really?” I said. “Can you really boil it down to one sentence?”
“Yes,” he said. “And it is this: Thank you for coming, now please leave and take us with you.”
I laughed because it seemed totally contradictory and totally right.
It also addresses another aspect of the Iraqi refugee issue currently just under the radar of American notice - but likely to rise in visibility during an election year. Of concern is the number of refugees who should be granted asylum in the United States. Democrats in congress are taking the lead in making this a political rather than a humanitarian issue:
Democratic lawmaker Gary Ackerman, who chairs the House subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, recalled that Congress had increased from 500 to 5,000 last year the number of immigrant visas available to Iraqis, such as translators and drivers, who worked for US efforts in Iraq.But in a recent briefing the State Department's James B. Foley, Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues, explained the challenges with meeting that goal.
The Democratic-controlled Congress also "had to take the lead in providing an additional 150 million" dollars to address the problem, he said.
"So Congress has been very aggressive in dealing with this crisis. I wish I could say the same for the administration" of President George W. Bush, he said.
Ackerman accused the Bush administration of falling short of its goal of resettling 12,000 Iraqi refugees inside the United States in 2008, after having admitted 1,608 in fiscal year 2007 and 1,876 five months into fiscal year 2008.
First - congress screwed up the Bill:
And then in this connection, the other, I think, bit of significant news today is that we understand that the President has signed the technical correction bill to the special immigrant visa part of the Iraq – Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act that passed in January but that needed correction because while granting – authorizing the granting of 5,000 special immigrant visas per year for five years, the bill was deficient in making it applicable immediately in 2008. And this fix, now signed by the President, does that. And so those special immigrant visas become available going forward...Second: the processing office for refugees in Baghdad just opened in early May.
Third - even so, there's no rush to the door from Iraq:
MR. FOLEY: Oh, a small, smallish number. I think that those who have been approved but not yet traveled out of Iraq probably are in the range of around 70 or so.Fourth - other countries housing Iraqi refugees are sometimes reluctant to let them depart:
We also had, unfortunately, 114 “no shows.” In other words, these were refugees who had passed successfully every stage of the process: they were approved, they were cleared, they were booked, they had tickets, they were supposed to get on airplanes and they were unable to travel because it turned out that either they did not have the necessary exit permits or it was believed that they did not have the necessary exit permits... So there’s a certain amount of attrition that we have to deal with, and the arrival numbers would have been really in the 1,250 range had we not had those no shows.Fifth - some just don't show up:
QUESTION: I’m just curious about the no shows. Who’s responsible for issuing these exit permits and are you getting any pushback from the Iraqi Government for some of these people? Are some of these people considered too valuable to leave?
MR. FOLEY: These are not people inside Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay. So they’re in Syria or --
MR. FOLEY: Apart from one couple --
MR. FOLEY: -- that I mentioned, the first actually to arrive in the U.S. from inside Iraq, having been processed in Iraq. Everyone else – 1,139 – came from countries in the region.
QUESTION: And so it’s those countries --
QUESTION: The no shows. You’re asking --
QUESTION: I’m asking about the no shows. So the –
MR. FOLEY: The responsibility – it is the host government that grants exit permits.
We also have some, frankly, as I told you before, refugees who simply don’t – for unknown reasons – appear even though they have been – have their airplane tickets.Sixth - violence actually occurs in countries that aren't Iraq:
But we did have to postpone a circuit ride into Lebanon in the month of May that certainly would have yielded a fair number of approved refugees who would have traveled to the U.S., been resettled in the U.S. this fiscal year.So there you have a half dozen reasons the US might not take in its "quota" of Iraqi refugees this year.
QUESTION: A couple of things. You said -- the circuit ride that was postponed in Lebanon was because of violence?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: So it wasn’t because the Lebanese –
MR. FOLEY: No. No, no, I should have made that clear. I neglected to do so. But you’re well familiar with the acute violence that flared up about – a matter of days before the circuit ride was supposed to begin.
QUESTION: And has that been rescheduled, so these --
MR. FOLEY: Well, let me put it this way. It was the first half of a two-part circuit ride, so the second part will go forward. And it’s now a matter of rescheduling that postponed part, which was meant to be about a month. And we are looking at rescheduling it at the tail end of this fiscal year. In other words, that won’t yield approvals, or at least arrivals, in the U.S. this fiscal year.
And there's the real concern for State - because if they can't get 12,000 Iraqi refugees to enter America this fiscal year they're in for some heavy criticism - and reasons are also called excuses in an election year.
But they're confident that they can do:
But I have to say at the same time that we are not satisfied with these results because in order to reach the goal of 12,000 arrivals of Iraqi refugees this fiscal year, we have a long way to go, and we recognize that.Because even with only 70 coming from Iraq (so far) and Iraq's neighbors preventing departures the search for refugees is widening:
In fact, if you do the math, as I’m sure you will, we are going to have to average a little over 1,800 refugee arrivals in the final four months of this fiscal year in order to reach that 12,000 goal. This is a tall order. It’s a tough hurdle. But we are determined to succeed and increasingly confident that we can succeed.
MR. FOLEY: Terry, could you describe some of the far-flung places we will process Iraqi refugees?I laughed because it seemed totally contradictory and totally wrong.
MS. RUSCH: New Delhi. I think there was one processed in Beijing recently. Malaysia. Well, far-flung – Greece. But they’re turning up in lots of places.
To be continued...
Maybe I'm missing something but if we can't get Iraqis to even show up and get on the plane to come to the U.S., doesn't that indicate that things aren't so bad there?Posted by Kafir at June 10, 2008 12:50 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(1) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)