Heightened security concerns in the United States have stalled the immigration process for tens of thousands of Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government or American firms in Iraq and hope to move to the United States, according to U.S. officials and refugee advocates.
A special program meant to distribute 25,000 visas to Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government has admitted just 7,000 since it started in 2008, officials said this week. In addition, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, a global program that also admits Iraqis, will admit about 6,000 Iraqis this year, down from 18,000 in fiscal 2010.
In a demonstration of the slowdown facing about 30,000 Iraqis, refugee advocates said just 50 were granted entry to the United States through the programs in April, compared with thousands in previous months. Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad contacted this week did not dispute the figures and did not provide more recent numbers.
American officials said there are no plans to end either program, but refugee advocates complain that the U.S. government is reneging on promises made to those who risked their lives during the war. Advocates have also said that reprisal attacks on Iraqis who worked for the U.S. military or contractors will probably increase as U.S. troops draw down across the country.