Blanket Asylum for All Iraqi Refugees is Lifted

The United Nations Refugee Agency has just revised its guidlines on how countries receiving refugees from Iraq should approach Iraqi asylum requests.  I think you can file this one under “good news” in the sense that UNHRC believes the situation in certain Iraqi regions is stable enough for the return of refugees.  From the Washington Post:

Under the new UNHCR guidelines, governments reviewing asylum requests from Iraqis from the semi-autonomous northern region and the south are urged to assesswhether claimants are at direct risk because of their religious, ethnic or professional affiliation, or their sexual orientation.

“We are now saying rather than blanket consideration, these people can be given individual interviews to determine their status,” Redmond said, saying that specific groups of people in those regions may still require protection.

These include public officials, U.N. and other aid workers, journalists, human rights activists, homosexuals, and people seen to be affiliated with opposing armed groups, political factions, multinational forces and foreign companies, he said.

While it’s great news that parts of Iraq are stable enough for return, UNHCR still believes that Iraqis from large swaths of western Iraq, including Baghdad and the Anbar province, still require blanket asylum.  I, for one, would like to see the United States accept a greater number of Iraqi asylum seekers.  According to a recent report from Human Rights First, only 4,200 Iraqis have made it to the United States since 2003, though at least 20,000 have applied for asylum.  The report says that progress has been made since Congress passed the Refugee Crisis of Iraq Act in January 2008, but there is still a long way to go for the United States to live up to its obligations to accept more Iraqi asylum seekers.  It seems to me that for having started this war, the United States has a special obligation to help people uprooted from violence in Iraq.

Photo of an Iraqi refugee in Damascus from Flickr user Catholicrelief.