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First Wave of Iraqis, Some of Whom Helped U.S., Feel Trapped in Jordan

02 Sep 2014 – By Dale Gavlak

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — Iraqi refugees who fled sectarian violence following the 2003-U.S.-led invasion are fearful they could fall between the cracks as aid agencies scramble to help fresh arrivals escaping Islamic State brutality.

One interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq never expected to become a refugee, let alone someone who is now battling for his rightful place to receive resettlement in America after years of service aiding officers.

Unlike other Iraqis who are now resettled in America due to threats because they worked with the U.S. government, the interpreter, who identifies himself only as Joseph, is languishing in the Jordanian capital. He wonders how to scrape together enough money to pay the rent and other bills for his young family.

“They made big promises to me. After five years of working with the U.S. Army, why hasn’t the U.S. granted me asylum?” asked the 31-year-old-man, who once served on the base of Gen. David Petraeus, commander of American forces in Iraq.

Militant threats against Joseph for his work with American troops and for his Christian faith forced him to flee to Jordan in 2009, while other family members escaped to Syria.

“When I see terrorists, bad people getting resettled in the United States, this hurts me,” said the man, who said he risked his life on several dangerous missions for the U.S. military in Baghdad and Iraq’s restive Sunni Arab heartland.

Joseph and other Iraqi refugees cite an example of an Iraqi kidnapper who was given the green light to settle in the U.S. It came as a surprise to all given Homeland Security’s tough requirements.

Joseph and many of the other 300,000 Iraqi refugees still sheltering in Jordan live in cities, not camps, and face hardship just trying to survive. Refugees are not permitted to work in Jordan due to the country’s own high unemployment.

Recently, the impoverished desert kingdom opened its doors to 1,000 Iraqi Christians forced to flee their ancient homeland of Mosul following persecution by Islamic State militants who demanded they convert to Islam, pay a protection tax, or be killed.

The United Nations has accused the Islamic State of committing “acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale,” since storming minority Christian and Yezidi areas and parts south this summer. Meanwhile, Amnesty International accused the jihadists of “war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions.”

Authorities say that Jordan is also sheltering 1.6 million displaced Syrians. Appeals for international financial aid have met a lukewarm response, so additional numbers seeking refuge place an enormous burden on Jordan’s already scarce resources in water, energy, education and health. Officials are asking for $4.5 billion in badly needed assistance.

“Nearly all of the monthly stipend we receive from the U.N. refugee agency goes towards rent. The small remainder pays for water, but how do I pay for electricity?” Joseph asked.

“We must eat. I’m just sitting in the house, but I want to do something,” he said, expressing the frustration felt by many long-term refugees.

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Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees United States