The number of refugees fleeing from their homes in Iraq is rising at an alarmingly high rate, estimated to be as high as 14 million people in April, as the Syrian civil war continues and ISIS maintains hold of highly populated Iraqi cities.
85% of Iraqis on the run are Sunnis. Most refugees who are fleeing within their borders attempt to cross into Baghdad, where Shiite militants on strict orders to hold the border do not let them cross. The Northern Kurdish Region, which has been “long a haven for civilians fleeing Iraq’s turmoil,” is still welcoming Christian refugees but are becoming hesitant when accepting Sunni Arabs. The security measures that are beginning to be put into place, according to the Iraqi government, are based on legitimate concerns.
These concerns stem from the country’s inability to vet the unmanageable amount of people crossing the borders between cities. The Iraqi government acknowledges that the “Islamic State is entrenched in Anbar and counts on some support from local citizens”, essentially saying that terrorists are likely to enter under the guise of a refugee. The large displacement of people, lack of housing and personal information for each citizen makes attempting to vet each citizen for entry unsustainable.
Funding is another issue as Aid agencies worry that soon they will be unequipped to help the increasing refugee flow, as they are now not only coming from Syria but other ISIS embedded towns like Ramadi in Iraq. The United Nations controls the refugee replacement program in Iraq and is struggling with monetary flow.
The New York Times reports that the “$500 million donation to the United Nations by Saudi Arabia ran out in March and other funds are quickly dwindling.” Another $500 million dollars is requested from the United Nations, the organizations biggest appeal in history, in order to successfully handle the quickly deteriorating situation in Iraq. The Senior United Nations official in charge of humanitarian efforts Lisa Grande said of the situation, “We are tapped out of money.”
Abuse of the refugee sponsorship program is another pressing issue within Iraq’s borders. The New York Times reports that in order to get to Baghdad, Anbar civilians must secure a sponsor in the capital who can escort them into the city. However, some residents are charging as much as $700 to incoming refugees according to the International Rescue Committee. Mark Schnellbaecher, the IRC’s regional crisis response director said of the issue, “Not only does paying for sponsorship undermine its security credentials, it also forces an unacceptable financial burden on displaced Iraqis who will need their savings to provide for their families.”
While Iraq is openly admitting their struggle and hesitancy with admitting Arab refugees in large numbers, the U.S. Government is urgently seeking to relocate these men, women and children to the The United States. The Center For Security Policy released an article May 26 discussing the letter Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) as well as fourteen other senators wrote asking President Obama to consider planning on 65,000 Syrian refugees to be on our border by the end of 2016. Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America explains in a broader sense the lack of communication that needs to be reformed in order to fix the immigration process of America.
America is receiving a large amount of refugees as tensions in Iraq and Syria rise. As of 2012, Texas is receiving the most refugees out of any state followed by California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. According to critically acclaimed author and columnist Paul Sperry, Obama has “averaged 100,000 new immigrants from Muslim nations a year … It’s more than we’re importing both from Central America and Mexico combined.”
Detroit, Michigan is, as The National Journal states, “A Dream Come True for Iraqi Refugees.” In places like this, Muslim immigrants are able to infuse into society, and are often provided with “food stamps, subsidized housing, health care, educational costs for children and the costs associated with the criminal justice system” all at the expense of the US taxpayer. The National Journal goes on to explain “Detroit’s suburbs have absorbed tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in recent years in the wake of the war.” Muslim communities often begin to form in these cities as more are placed in the same designated areas. A similar view was offered by a New York Times Op-Ed writer.
However, three dire issues arise with these transitions.
Firstly, the concerns of national security and the failures of the US immigration officials vetting process are causing a magnitude of problems. The book Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America explains that “as entire regions of the Middle East … descend into chaos, the ability of immigration officials to conduct proper vetting of applicants by verifying places of origin, political orientation, criminal records or even basic identity, is all too often non-existent.” Sperry says of the same process, “The FBI officials who are in charge of that type of vetting process for terrorists coming in under visas and refugee programs … admit, under oath, that they have no idea who these people are, and they can’t find out.” The assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Michael Stench even commented on the lack of information the FBI is experiencing.
Secondly, the financial ability of America to host these refugees is quickly fading. Ann Corcoran’s book explains that in the fiscal year 2014, total available funding dedicated to the Refugee program stood at $1,143,000,000. The fiscal year 2015 shows the funding falling to $1,059,000,000. As stated above, the US taxpayer remains responsible for providing the money, but left out of the conversation on what happens to it.
Lastly, Refugee Resettlement watchers such as Ann Corcoran, a citizen turned expert on this topic, are raising awareness about the failure of transparency that the government continues to have with it’s citizens on the topic.
Essentially, Iraq’s struggle with its immigration vetting process is effecting not only it’s own country, but countries worldwide, as not only the United States but places like the UK, Germany and Canada are receiving refugees from this area of conflict as well.
The Islamic State now controls both Syria and Iraq, currently the main sources of most Muslim immigrants to America. As Paul Sperry said, “We have no idea if they’re going to come into this country to escape terrorism or to carry out terrorism. We have no idea.”