Bureaucratic limbo for stranded Iraqis
- 19 Nov 07, 01:24 PM
BEIRUT --- Dalia was an Iraqi administrator at the British Embassy in Baghdad until early this year. But after her brother was kidnapped, she was followed home from work and her parents discovered a death threat in her house, she knew she had to leave Iraq.
She never thought that the fact she worked for the Americans for 90 days before joining the British Embassy might make the difference between a more secure future and continued uncertainty.
Dalia (her name has been changed to protect her identity) now lives in a flat in Amman, where I interviewed her for a Newsnight report (watch it here) on the dangers facing Iraqis who have worked with the British and Americans.
The announcement of government assistance to Iraqis like her was a relief. But the detail of the policy, delivered in a statement to the Commons by David Miliband, disappoints.
Financial assistance is being offered to former Iraqi staff and, in some cases, resettlement in the UK is available. Dalia badly needs it. The Jordanians won’t allow Iraqis to work, which means she has to live off her savings in a country with a much higher cost of living than she is used to.
But Iraqis will only be eligible if they worked for the British for twelve months. Dalia worked for ten and a half months before she had to flee. A spokesman for the Foreign Office told me that there won't be flexibility. It looks like Dalia will miss out.
But she has worked for the coalition in Iraq for more than ten and half months. Prior to her job at the British Embassy, she worked since the invasion in 2003 for USAID, the American development agency. It was the experience she gained with the Americans that made her a valuable employee for the British government agency she worked for in Iraq. But the Foreign Office tell me that only employment with the British will be taken into account.
Despite her combined length of service with the British and American coalition, it’s not clear she’ll be eligible for American government assistance either. Indeed, Sunday’s Washington Post suggests that many of her former colleagues now in Jordan are in a similar bureaucratic limbo.
She’s also discovered that her home in Baghdad has been broken into. “I left my country and my family and I lost my job,” she wrote in an e-mail to me. “Now my home is invaded by a family and we don’t know who they are! I really wish to start over again in a safe place.”
Dalia’s last hope, along with hundreds of thousands of other Iraqi refugees, is now the United Nations.
Other former Iraqi translators who have posted to this blog – like Anas and Abul who are now in Damascus – might want to look at the Foreign Office website to see if they are entitled to help.
Let us know how you get on. It’ll be interesting to see if you enjoy more luck than Dalia.