US suspends refugee program for Iraqi interpreters, aides for 90 days


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SULAIMANI — The US Department of State said on Friday (January 22) that it is suspending for 90 days a program aimed at enabling Iraqis who acted as translators or aides for US officials to seek refuge in the US because of potential irregularities in the program.

Acting Secretary of State Daniel B. Smith said in a statement that the Department of Justice is “prosecuting individuals for stealing US government records from the Department of State’s Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System to take advantage of the Direct Access Program for US-Affiliated Iraqis.”

Smith said that all refugee applicants are “subject to stringent security and vetting requirements” and explained that the suspension is necessary “to further review and address vulnerabilities.”

“We recognize the importance of assisting those who legitimately put their lives at risk to provide critical support to the United States in Iraq and we do not take the decision to suspend this program lightly,” he added.

The US and other countries who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have been severely criticized for failing to protect host country nationals who worked for them. Once discharged from service, they are particularly vulnerable from threats to them and their families from those who oppose the presence of foreign militaries.

(NRT Digital Media)