March 9th, 2010
09:35 PM ET

GAO report: Iraqi refugees face challenges in resettling

Iraqi refugees face steep challenges in resettling in the United States, including homelessness and unemployment amid an economic downturn, government auditors said Tuesday.

According to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday, the dire economic situation has "has made jobs normally available to refugees, such as entry-level jobs with limited English proficiency, scarce and more competitive."

Even though Iraqi refugees have "relatively high levels of education," the GAO said in the report, the U.S. resettlement program, in looking for jobs for refugees, does not take into account their prior work experience and education.

"Rather, the focus of the program is on securing early employment for
refugees," the office said.

Many resettlement agencies say that it is taking as long as six months, and in some cases, as many as 10 months, for incoming Iraqi refugees to find employment, the GAO said.

Citing the International Rescue Committee, the GAO said that there are "high levels of trauma, injury, and illness" among Iraqi refugees.

"Moreover, unemployment and homelessness threaten Iraqi refugees and other populations recently resettled in the United States," the GAO said, citing non-governmental organizations and resettlement agencies.

Some Iraqi refugees face eviction because they cannot pay rent, the report said.

The report said that the United States admitted 34,470 Iraqi refugees under the State Department's Refugee Admissions Program between fiscal years 2006 and 2009. In addition, the GAO said, the State Department issued 4,634 special immigrant visas to Iraqis pursuant to two programs that Congress established to help Iraqis who had previously worked for the U.S. government in Iraq.

Most of them are in California, Michigan, Texas, Arizona, Illinois and Virginia, the report said.

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  1. Ash

    Why bother resettling Iraqis? It is hard enough waging those wars there... brining them over here is a new ball game altogether.... if we start accepting refugees as we are doing from Haiti, Iraq and so on, pretty soon every one in from every third world country will start showing up here as a refugee.. where do you stop?

    March 10, 2010 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. bc

    As a US citizen working in the UAE I have befreinded an Iraqi woman living here. She and her mother, brother and sister left Baghdad in 2005 when the violence started to pick up. She is separated from her family now, but dreams of a life in the U.S. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to find a means to get her a visa into the U.S. I would have thought that we would welcome such people and help them restore their lives after we disrupted so many of theirs. She is well educated and speaks English, Arabic, some Polish and French. I understand the ecomonic crisis has hit hard, but we as Americans should shoulder some of the burden we placed on them by the War and help them get through these tough times. In the meantime, I'll keep trying to get my friend into our great Land of The Free.


    March 10, 2010 at 4:23 am | Report abuse |