Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Few Iraqis find refuge in the U.S.


By Brian Padden
Washington, D.C.
19 June 2007

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June 20th is International Refugee Day so we are turning our attention to the refugee situation in Iraq. The United Nations says nearly four million Iraqis have fled from their homes seeking refuge in either safer regions of their country or abroad. And every month at least 40,000 more people are displaced.

The United States faces increasing criticism for not doing more to solve the refugee crisis there or allowing more Iraqi refugees into the U.S. In 2006 the United States allowed only 202 Iraqi refugees into the country. VOA's Brian Padden found one of the few -- in Dearborn, Michigan.

The large Iraqi community in Dearborn, Michigan, makes up a significant part of the 500,000 Arab-Americans who live in Detroit.
There is a large Iraqi community in Dearborn, Michigan. It makes up a significant part of the 500,000 Arab-Americans who live in or around the Midwest city of Detroit.

Most of the men at the Karbala Islamic Center, like the vast majority of Iraqis here, came in the early 1990s after the first Gulf War. But Ahmed Kareem arrived just a year ago. Before he left Iraq, Kareem says he was working as a journalist in Baghdad for an American-supported Iraqi newspaper. He says he fled after he was targeted for assassination for helping Americans.

The Karbala Islamic Center
"The last time in Iraq a couple of guys shot at me and that's why I had to leave Iraq because of this. And my family was threatened too, and one of my brothers was assassinated," Kareem told us.

Kareem now lives in one small rented room. He wants to bring other family members here. They are now living in Egypt. Kareem is one of the few Iraqi refugees who have been allowed into the United States. In 2006 only 202 Iraqis were resettled in the U.S. This is a controversial issue even in the Arab community here.

Dawud Walid is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan. He says the government is discriminating against Arabs and Muslims. "We believe it is partly due to the demonization of Arabs in the post-9/11 era."(MORE)

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