Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The problems with the fast-track refugee program

"It used to be that going to America was a dream. No more," said Raheem, 56, a former teacher and experienced reporter who is one of the local cast of journalists, interpreters, drivers, guards, technicians and general fix-it men and women who have kept The Times running here since the war began.
The idea of going to the United States has long been a topic of discussion among Iraqis who have worked with Americans here in aid agencies, news organizations and the U.S. military. Their jobs make them susceptible to attacks by insurgents who have taken aim at U.S.-associated institutions and their most vulnerable employees: the Iraqis who come to work for them each day.
Now the economic aspect invariably creeps into the conversation. One rumor making the rounds is that things in the United States are so bad, new refugees could be sent to Guam.
"Life here has been difficult. We did not arrive at the perfect time," one former Times staffer wrote last month from his new home on the icy East Coast.
Raheem and I have had countless conversations on this topic since last summer, after the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act made it possible for Iraqis who worked for U.S.-based media, aid agencies and the U.S. government and its contractors to receive special consideration as refugees.

The above is from Tina Susman's "Iraqis' dream of moving to America fades" (Los Angeles Times) which is was worth reading and then some; however, I'm drawing a conclusion from the article I don't think Susman would. I don't think special treatment needs to be given to any who helped US media or who collaborated with the US military. Raheem's one person, yes, but he's one person who just clogged up the system. Fast-tracked through the system because he assists the Los Angeles Times, Raheem learns he has been accepted into the US as a refugee and . . . decides he doesn't want to go. Thank you for wasting time that could have been used getting another Iraq out. Thank you for clogging up the system in your useless exercise that reminds me of Joan Crawford rushing to read for Eli Kazan, being praised by Kazan and offered the role only for her to immediately dismiss it saying she'd be bored doing a play.

Well, there are people who wouldn't and there are people who need to get out of Iraq. Clearly, Raheem doesn't need to. Clearly, the system allowed him to cut ahead of people with very real needs. When did he explain he didn't want to go? When he was doing any of the series of interviews? When he was doing additional paper work? No. After he got the approval call, he made his decision. He didn't even let them know on that phone call -- despite the fact that he's with Susman and, as soon as he gets off the phone, he makes it clear to her that he's not leaving Iraq. There are people who need to leave. There are people who have left and live in limbo in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. There are Palestinians trapped on the border of Iraq with no where to go.

So Raheem's wasted everyone's time and this isn't a college application, this is about leaving a war zone. He ought to be ashamed of himself. There are people who need to get out and while he screwed around, he prevented other applications from being processed.

Susman goes on to share that the paper's Ahmed wants to leave and his application is working its way through the system. My opinion? That application should be kicked out right now. Ahmed's wife is saying now that she wants to stay in Iraq. So he gets approved and he's going to leave her? Not likely. Then there's the paper Usama who is also working his way through the system and he "is undecided." If you're undecided quit wasting everyone's damn time. There are people who need to leave. If you can't make up your mind, you don't need to enter the system. It is not fair to others. And another rule that should be imposed: If you are granted status and refuse it, you don't get back in the system. You are banned from the system. Not just the special, fast-track for media workers, but from the entire system. You had an offer, you blew it off. In the time that you wasted, at least one -- possibly more -- family of Iraqis could have made it out of Iraq. Susman notes, "Rarely do would-be Iraqi refugees get a second chance." There should be no "rarely" about it. You get offered refugee status and you turn it down, you're done with the system, you're banned from it. No one needs to waste time interviewing you again, processing your papers again, when you could very easily turn around and say (again), "I changed my mind."

In an update to a story from yesterday, 2,000 of the 6,000 missing US service members in Iraq have been 'found.' J. David Goodman writes in "U.S. and British Forces in Iraq Are Reduced" (New York Times -- online only, not in the print version of the paper) writes, "There are currently about 142,000 American troops in Iraq, where security conditions have improved significantly over the previous year."

Iraq's Foreign Ministry notes:

8 March, 2009

Foreign Minister Meets World Health Organization Representative in Baghdad

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met in his office with the representative of WHO in Iraq, Dr. Naima Hassan Qasera on Sunday 8/3/2009.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met in his office with the representative of WHO in Iraq, Dr. Naima Hassan Qasera on Sunday 8/3/2009. morning where she presented her credential letter as representative of the World Health Organization in Iraq

Minister Zebari valued the efforts of the World Health Organization in Iraq in raising the level of health and activating its functions , and its urgent and necessary presence in Iraq for the advancement of the health sector and rebuilding the infrastructure of this important sector, both at the level of medical staff and health care, and called for coordination between the WHO and other organizations to serve the health sector in Iraq.

Dr. Qasera stated that the organization focuses on three programs, the safety of food, drug safety and activities of the Organization in these three areas and their concern that the criteria used in the follow-up of these areas are consistent with international standards in order to preserve the health gains.

Dr. Qasera pointed to the issue of the International Health Regulations approved by the World Health Society, signed in Geneva on 23/5/2009Iq is the highest form of a committee chaired by the Ministry of Health and the membership of a number of ministries to follow up on this subject.

The meeting was attended by Undersecretary Dr. Mohammed Haj Hmoud, Ambassador Surod Najib Director the Minister's Office, Ambassador Talal Hashim Al-Khudairi Head of Organizations and International Cooperation , Deputy Head of the Protocol Department Mr. Tahsin Iena. Minister Zebari welcomed Dr. Qasera and asked about the Organization's activities in Iraq.

Actually, that's not the doctor's name, it's Naeema al-Gasseer. And part of the reason the WHO study is such a joke is because idiots like her are responsible. We covered that little liar some time ago, back when she was blaming cholera cases on Iraqi women -- blaming Iraqi women. Already under attack, already beaten and abused. That piece of trash told a Baghdad press conference that cholera was the fault of Iraqi women. Not the refusal of her buddy al-Maliki to repair the infrastructure, not because there was no potable water. It was the fault of Iraqi women. It's that kind of toadying that endears her to al-Maliki's regime and it's that kind of toadying that makes WHO a joke. Let's drop back to Oxfam International's [PDF format warning] "In Her Own Words: Iraqi women talka bout their greatest concerns and challenges" to note one woman, 41-year-old Nour, a widow who lives "with 20 people in cramped quarters in Baghdad's Al-Sadr City" and who explains, "Our drinking water is drawn by a pump which at the same time draws sewage water which we disinfect with chlorien tablets that we buy at the pharmacy. . . People in the area who can't afford the tablets have fallen ill with many serious diseases like cholera, typhoid, intestinal infections and renal infections, especially in the summer." Blame her, al-Gasseer, it will certainly allow al-Maliki breathing room and continue your pattern of blaming the victims for the failures of their own government.

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