There are now more than 2.2 million Iraqi refugees - the vast majority of them in Syria and Jordan - along with another 2 million who are internally displaced in Iraq. On a typical day, thousands of families swarm the border checkpoints, hoping to escape the violence. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that 60,000 Iraqis flee each month.
At least 50,000 Iraqis (some estimates are double that number) have been employed by either the U.S. government or private American organizations, meaning that at least 250,000 family members (again, it could be double that number) have a connection with U.S. institutions, whether governmental, military, private or NGO.
But U.S. refugee policy since the Iraq invasion in 2003, as well as the sheer number of refugees, makes success a remote possibility for any given applicant.
The U.S. government admitted one Iraqi refugee in April and one in May. Sixty-three were admitted in June. In 2007 so far, the total is 190, but even this number is misleading, since all but 17 of them were backlogged cases of Iraqis who had fled before the war began. Last February, the Bush administration promised to admit 7,000 refugees by the end of September. Given the rate at which Iraqis have actually been processed, U.S. officials are now conceding that no more than 2,000 will gain entry.
As Eleanor Acer of New York-based Human Rights First puts it: "Those who have worked for the U.S. military, the U.S. government and even the U.S. media have been the victims of threats, kidnappings, killings and other brutal violence. The United States has a moral obligation to protect the people who are at risk because of their ties to this country."
Meanwhile, tens - indeed hundreds - of thousands of Iraqis in Damascus, Amman and other Mideast cities sit and wait, unable to go forward, and afraid to turn back.
- Marc Kusnetz, Huffington Post