U.S. admissions of Iraqi refugees are nose-diving amid bureaucratic in-fighting despite the Bush administration’s pledge to boost them to roughly 1,000 per month, according to State Department statistics obtained by The Associated Press.
For the third straight month since the United States said it would improve processing and resettle 12,000 Iraqis by the end of the current budget year on Sept. 30., the number admitted has actually slid, the figures show.
The steady decline—from 450 in October to 362 in November and 245 in December—means the administration will have to allow in 10,943 Iraqis over the next nine months, or roughly 1,215 per month, to meet the target it has set for itself.
But that goal will be difficult to meet and there are few precedents for such large influxes since hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese refugees were resettled here after the Vietnam War ended in 1975.
In the past five years, with few exceptions, notably Somalia and Liberia, the United States has never been able to admit more than 1,000 refugees per month from any country, according to an AP review of statistics from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
Iraqi refugees are subject to more security checks than those from almost all other nations and the most Iraqis ever admitted to the U.S. in a single month since 2003 was 889 this past September.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 2 million Iraqis have fled their country. Of these, 1.2 million are in Syria, 750,000 in Jordan, 100,000 in Egypt, 54,000 in Iran, 40,000 in Lebanon, 10,000 in Turkey and 200,000 in various Persian Gulf countries.
The U.N. refugee agency has referred more than 14,000 Iraqis to the United States for resettlement.