U.S. takes few Iraqi refugees

Jan. 2, 2007 at 12:37 AM
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BAGHDAD, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Advocates for Iraqi refugees, and some U.S. officials, say not enough is being done to allow refugees into the United States.

Until recently, the Bush administration planned to allow just 500 Iraqis to settle in the United States this year, The New York Times reported. That is a small fraction of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who reportedly flee their country monthly.

State Department officials said they were open to accepting more refugees, but are limited by the United Nation referral system, which they call cumbersome and poorly financed.

"We're not even meeting our basic obligation to the Iraqis who've been imperiled because they worked for the U.S. government," said Kirk W. Johnson, who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Iraq in 2005. "We could not have functioned without their hard work, and it's shameful that we've nothing to offer them in their bleakest hour."

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., plans hearings on the matter this month, after he takes over as chairman of the immigration, border security and refugee subcommittee, the Times said.

It is estimated that almost 2 million Iraqis live outside their country.

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