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The Plight of Iraqi Refugees in Syria

Between the U.S. government’s increased security check regime and Syria’s refusal to grant visas to DHS refugee ajudicators, Iraqis in Damascus find themselves stuck in the midst of an increasingly insecure political climate.

Among those waiting, PRI's "The World" reports, is an 84 year old Chaldean Christian Iraqi refugee named Shami whose health is fast deteriorating. Her daughter and her daughter’s husband, Iraqis successfully resettled in San Diego, just learned over the phone that Shami is losing the ability to see.

Larry Bartlett, head of the Office of Refugee Admissions at the Department of State, discussing the new more stringent security checks, says, “I have to say we have seen results. We’ve been able to deny people based on new information that’s cropped up just before travel.”

Rigorous security checks are an important part of a serious refugee admissions program, like that of the United States. But Larry Bartlett and others like him (in the Departments of State and Homeland Security and in the Obama Administration) must realize that a security check which invalidates 30-40 percent of the refugee pool and delays travel for over a year for meritorious candidates like Shami is not the right solution.

The U.S. government must continue to work hard toward unfreezing our refugee admissions process and finding creative solutions, such as video-conferencing, to the problem of Syrian visa denials. Even as visas and applications are put on hold, the lives of refugees are not.