Churches seek further US action on resettling vulnerable Iraqis

By staff writers
December 16, 2010

US church and human rights groups are urging President Obama to fix delays and problems affecting refugees and asylum seekers from war-torn Iraq, especially those from minority communities.

Christians and other vulnerable groups are at risk of violence and persecution in Iraq - and when they seek safe haven, they face months and sometimes years of delay, say Human Rights First and mainline churches' pressure group, Faithful America.

Iraqis seeking refuge in the region are forced into a situation of insecurity, often resulting in poverty, hardship, illegal work situations, and prostitution, all because their applications are wrapped up in bureacracy.

"By fixing the flaws in the US resettlement system we can help provide safety to thousands of Iraqis whose lives are in limbo," says the network, which is encouraging supporters to appeal directly to the White House as well as to their state representatives.

While the situation is precarious for many Iraqis, targeted minorities - including Christians, LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender) people, Iraqis who chose to work for US operatives and others - are facing increasing threats.

Supporters are asking President Obama to improve the process of resettlement for Iraqi refugees in need of safety, in order to:

• Reduce unnecessary delays in the security clearance process. The National Security Council, along with Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, and intelligence agencies, can make sure refugees and vulnerable Iraqis do not have to wait through unnecessary delays.

• Develop and implement an emergency resettlement procedure for refugees facing imminent danger. Urgent cases need to be treated differently and expedited.

• Remove other impediments which continue to delay the applications of US affiliated Iraqis. There are still huge case backlogs and inefficiencies in the processing of special immigrant papers.

"Over the last three years we’ve seen progress," says Faithful America.

The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act created a set of programmes to provide routes of escape to the United States for US affiliated Iraqis facing danger. The President's commitment that the country has a “strategic interest - and moral responsibility” to help Iraqi refugees was also a step in the right direction, they add. "Still, we need to do more, and we can."

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