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U.N. unable to resettle Mandaeans together

We met several Iraqi Mandaeans in Jordan and Syria a couple of years ago while reporting stories about the Iraqi refugee crisis.

Members of the tiny sect, which follows the teachings of John the Baptist, have been targeted in ethnic violence in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. About 60,000 have fled Iraq or Iran in recent years for the relative safety of neighboring countries.

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Now the Associated Press reports that the United Nations is having difficulty resettling Iraqi Mandaeans, and acknowledging that the challenge is putting the group at risk.

Vincent Cochetel, who represents the United States and the Caribbean for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told the AP that no single country wants to take all of the Mandaeans. He said nations typically don't accept entire ethnic or religious groups and that countries face capacity issues.

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Dr. Wisam Breegi, a Mandaean who lives in Boston, told the AP that members of the religion need to resettle together or it will disappear. The Boston area has one of the larger U.S. populations with around 450.

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