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In the Middle East

Bureaucratic limbo for stranded Iraqis

  • Richard Colebourn
  • 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.

AmmanShe 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.

David MilibandBut 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.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 04:20 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Zeki Özbudak wrote:

That is a terrific situation.Some
U.K.VIP person should help her at least
temproraly find a job in some U.K.
or Amerkan ambassy for Dalia for her
That is a humanity depending and help.

  • 2.
  • At 04:53 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • walid kassim wrote:

all i a can say is that im ashamed to be british at this moment of time. the government should more to help other wise these people how the army depend on alot will notice that they are better of not working for the government even though it might pay will but i just feel its like use and abuse the british government should be ashamed

  • 3.
  • At 05:04 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

What do you expect? The whole history of the UK's involvement in the region has been shameful. It is good to know, though, that British policy is consistent: the various governments for over a century have always used the peoples of the region as a tool for British interests and not cared about their needs.

  • 4.
  • At 07:12 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Ali wrote:

It's good to see that the Americans and British are working so well together... if they can't even sort it out to help Iraqis who have worked for both of them, no wonder the coalition has been such a disaster for the whole country.

  • 5.
  • At 05:26 AM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

Apply for Australian immigration...Since her english is good, they can take her. Try the Australian government for details. May GOD be with Dalia...She's a vistim of buraucracy...Mike

  • 6.
  • At 10:58 AM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Jari Söderholm wrote:

Why the people who commented here blame UK goverment for all the problems.
At least they gave her a job, and it wasn't UK goverment who forced her to leave the country.
Open your eyes.

  • 7.
  • At 01:13 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Ali wrote:

But Jari - it was the UK government who went into Iraq, needed people like her to help them, had no plan for sorting out the country. No - they didn't force her to leave - but don't they have a duty to repay her trust?

Tony Balr claims religion played great part in his governance. If so, Why did he repeatedly lie on Iraq & Afghanistan along with the greatest liar "Bush". He is not entitle to any respect for his lying.

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