Apr. 15, 2005 – Despite increasing risk to Iraqis seen as having collaborated with occupation forces or the new Iraqi government, the United States is steadfastly refusing to grant refugee status even to Iraqis targeted for having assisted American forces.
According to the UN, the US stopped accepting refugees from Iraq, even those with family members living in the US, immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Washington has continued to deny them entry despite the absence of any evidence tying Iraqis to the attacks. Since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, some 700,000 Iraqis have fled to Syria, while another 15,000 have reportedly gone to Jordan.
In a February letter to the State Department, Amnesty International and several other human rights and refugee aid organizations called on the US to resettle Iraqis, especially those whose lives are threatened by insurgents. "Such people should be of special humanitarian concern to the US," the letter said.
The refugee coordinator at the US embassy in Baghdad told Knight Ridder that refugees are refused because Iraqis are needed in Iraq to reconstruct the country as a democracy. "The whole purpose of being here is to create an environment of stability and security so that's not an issue," said Joanne Cummings, insisting that the embassy keeps a close watch on Iraqis who have taken risks to aid the US-led invasion and occupation.