Monday, September 17, 2007

No Friend Left Behind Update

[posted by Callimachus]

Crocker's warning:

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq warned that it may take the U.S. government as long as two years to process and admit nearly 10,000 Iraqi refugees referred by the United Nations for resettlement to the United States, because of bureaucratic bottlenecks.

In a bluntly worded State Department cable titled "Iraqi Refugee Processing: Can We Speed It Up?" Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker noted that the Department of Homeland Security had only a handful of officers in Jordan to vet the refugees.

Bush administration officials in Washington immediately disputed several of Crocker's claims.

Still, the "sensitive" but unclassified memo, sent Sept. 7, laid out a wrenching, ground-level view of the U.S. government's halting response to Iraq's refugee crisis. Human rights groups and independent analysts say thousands of desperate Iraqis who have worked alongside Americans now find themselves the targets of insurgents and sectarian militias, prompting many of them to seek residency in the United States or Europe.

Although the subject was little addressed during Crocker's and Gen. David H. Petraeus's public testimony to Congress last week on the state of the war, the envoy has raised the issue in two cables in the past two months. The subject is likely to be discussed when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets this week with congressional leaders to outline the administration's refugee admissions goals for 2008 and when the Senate resumes its Iraq war debate.

... Each DHS case officer in Jordan can interview only four cases a day on average because of the in-depth questioning required, and just a handful of officers were in the region, partly because Syria refuses to issue visas to DHS personnel, Crocker said. "It would take this team alone almost two years to complete" interviews on 10,000 U.N. referrals, he estimated.

As more Iraqis flee, he noted, delays are "likely to grow considerably."

"Refugees who have fled Iraq continue to be a vulnerable population while living in Jordan and Syria," he wrote. "The basis for . . . resettlement is the deteriorating protection environment in these countries."

Meanwhile, shame in Britain:

It is six weeks since the Government promised an “urgent review” of the situation of Iraqis whose lives are in danger because of their work as interpreters for the British Army. During that time, the 5,000 British troops have pulled back from central Basra to the airport, mainly for their own safety. Nothing has been done for the interpreters. Several have already been tortured and killed. Some have received death threats from militia thugs who accuse them of collaboration. Their homes are unprotected and their families live in terror. Out of loyalty and honour, they remain at their posts, helping British troops understand the dangers and the confusion. In return, they have been contemptuously brushed aside, as though they were trouble-makers demanding special favours. This is utterly shameful.

And with good cause for it:

Nine or ten masked men went to the home of Moayed Ahmed Khalaf in the al-Hayaniah district of Basra and beat him in front of his wife and mother, four sources told The Times. They then dragged him away, telling the frantic women that they would bring him back shortly. Khalaf’s body was found on Al Qa’ed Street later that night. He had been shot multiple times, according to Colonel Ali Manshed, commander of the Shatt-al-Arab police station.

A cousin, a close friend and two other interpreters all told The Times that Khalaf, 31, had worked for the British at their Basra airport base. Colonel Manshed said that everyone questioned by the police had said Khalaf was an interpreter, adding: “He was a good man, everyone liked him and there was no other reason to kill him.”

However Major Mike Shearer, a spokesman at the airport base, said that the army could find no record of Khalaf having worked for the army.

The Times (London) has been dutifully covering the fates of the Iraqi interpreters and others who helped them in Basra, now that the British have withdrawn. It's not a pretty picture.