Ottawa (AsiaNews) – The United States has called on Canada to accept more refugees from Iraq as the unrest there intensifies, driving more and more people into exile.
Ellen Sauerbery, a US assistant secretary of state, spent two days in Ottawa last week discussing the matter with Canadian foreign affairs and immigration officials.
Canadian officials say no policy decisions have been made.
Ms Sauerbery said many Iraqis who fled to Syria or Jordan, including victims of torture, women and children, and members of the small Christian minority, will never be able to return to their country.
“We've encouraged Canada to make this a priority in their resettlement policy because this is an area of tremendous need and vulnerability,” she said.
She said she's been told Canada has already accepted 49 such Iraqi refugees.
In fact, Washington might as well look at its own immigration policy and make it easier for Iraqis to come. Currently, the quota for Iraq stands at around 500. but a few weeks ago, the assistant secretary of state said that the US president has the authority to raise the ceiling to emergency levels at 20,000.
Arthur E. Dewey, a former assistant secretary of state for refugee affairs, explains that "for political reasons the administration will discourage" Iraqi resettlement in the U.S. "because of the psychological message it would send, that it is a losing cause."
According to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only 202 Iraqi refugees were admitted in 2006 in the US and almost all had applied before the 2003 war. Since then 466 Iraqis were admitted but the overall number of refugees has climbed to 2 million.
UNHCR has appealed for US$ 60 million to confront the Iraqi refugee crisis in 2007. In 2007 Washington has allocated US$ 20 million for Iraq’s humanitarian crisis.
According to US Deputy Secretary of Defence Gordon England, the Iraq War is costing the US an average US$ 8.4 billion a month.