WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department says it hopes to take 7,000 Iraqi refugees into the United States over the course of the year.
The Bush administration's decision follows an increase in criticism and pressure from the U.S. Congress and international leaders to take action against the refugee crisis in Iraq, CNN reported Thursday. Since the start of the war in 2003, the United States has accepted 466 Iraqi refugees.
Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said about 2 million Iraqis have fled the country since the start of the conflict and another 1.7 million have been displaced within the country.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Wednesday with Guterres to discuss the new U.S. approach to refugees, which entails an $18 million increase in funding for Guterres' department to help with resettlement and humanitarian aid, bringing 7,000 Iraqi refugees into the United States this year and other measures.
U.S. Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey said Iraqi refugees would go through rigorous health and security checks before being allowed to migrate to the United States.