In May, the United States accepted 1,141 Iraqi refugees–the most the U.S. has accepted in a given month. The Bush administration projected it could admit almost 8,000 more refugees by the end of September, closing in on (but not guaranteeing) its goal of 12,000 refugees by fiscal year-end.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than 4.7 million Iraqis have left their homes, including 2.7 million displaced internally and 2 million exiled in neighboring countries, primarily in Syria and Jordan. While many Iraqis were displaced prior to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the largest number has fled in the last five years.
Advocacy groups and lawmakers have criticized the U.S. government for doing little to admit Iraqi refugees in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. In response, the government opened its first permanent office in Baghdad for Iraqi refugees seeking to settle in the U.S.
Previously, Iraqis had to travel to resettlement offices in Syria, Jordan and Egypt, but the Baghdad refugee processing office, located in the Green Zone, will give Iraqis greater access to file for resettlement in the U.S.
On Tuesday, President Bush also signed a law that would admit 5,000 Iraqis each year for the next five years.
This summer, WIDE ANGLE takes us to Jordan and Syria and into the daily lives of Iraqis caught in the refugee crisis–the biggest in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians in 1948.
WIDE ANGLE’s film about the Iraqi refugee crisis in Syria and Jordan premieres on August 19. Check your local listings for airtimes, and check back here for updates.