CWS presses U.S. government to speed resettlement of Iraqi refugees

Church World Service continues to be deeply concerned for the 2.2 million Iraqis who have fled their country and the additional two million who are internally displaced within Iraq with little hope of returning to their homes due to persecution and fear of death.

A large number of these people have served alongside U.S. troops as translators, drivers, cooks, doctors, mechanics, and in other valuable roles. Chaldean Christians, Palestinians, and academics also are fleeing persecution based on their religion, ethnicity, or profession. The United States has an obligation to protect people who are fleeing the violence that continues to grip Iraq.

Early in 2007, the U.S. Department of State made a commitment to resettle 7,000 refugees from Iraq, with the expectation of at least 2,000 arriving by September 30 of this year. As of September 15, only 829 refugees had arrived nationwide, leaving millions of people still in urgent need of protection.

Currently, it is taking eight to ten months – a period the U.S. government acknowledges is too long — to process Iraqi refugees for admission into the United States. In response to growing concerns being raised by refugee advocacy groups, including Church World Service, regarding the unnecessarily slow processing and small number of Iraqi refugees being admitted to the United States, the Bush Administration is appointing two senior officials who will be charged with ensuring that the resettlement processing system for Iraqis works efficiently.

We are grateful that the U.S. government is giving greater attention to the resettlement of refugees from Iraq, and strongly encourage it not to back away from the modest goal of the resettlement of 7,000 Iraqi refugees. We also urge support for the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act (S. 1651), which would further help Iraqi refugees by prioritizing vulnerable individuals, providing expedited special visas for those who have helped U.S. troops, and allowing those who seek safety to efficiently apply for relief.

As an organization with more than 60 years of experience in refugee resettlement and protection, Church World Service stands ready to help welcome Iraqi refugees to U.S. communities.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, CWS/New York, 212-870-2676;
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526;