U.S. turns away Iraqi allies

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To prevent fraud, the State Department’s policy is that “paper is not enough,” said a State Department official. The documents presented by refugees must be verified through personal contact with the authors.

“Whenever you try to screen for fraud, there is a possibility of a mistake,” said the official.

In a time of war, said Jeffrey Hancuff, director of the Iraqi Information Office at St. Andrew’s Refugee Services in Cairo, finding and contacting Iraqi employers, or U.S. military members whose deployments to Iraq have ended or who have left the military altogether, can be extremely difficult.

“Of the people who have come to us with official documents, there are many, many where the contact information is not still relevant,” Mr. Hancuff said.

“It’s setting up bureaucratic requirements that make sense theoretically, but in the practical reality of the level of instability in Iraq and in the American bases and forces and the instability of the refugees’ lives themselves, requiring that the refugee still have access to the person who had originally written the letter of recommendation or who had originally signed their contract is beyond what can reasonably be expected of them.”

Mr. Adda has a letter from a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel recommending his company, a letter from an Army captain recommending Mr. Adda by name, and a letter from the Iraqi company confirming his employment there.

He said he was rejected because the lieutenant colonel, with whom Mr. Adda did not have a personal relationship, does not remember Mr. Adda by name. The Army captain only listed an Iraqi phone number for contact information and cannot be reached.

Mr. Adda’s is a common problem. One man who worked for the U.S. Marine Corps has a letter from a Marine Corps major describing him as “a hero for Iraq and the Marines with whom you served.” He, too, was rejected.

Other refugees are denied access to the program because their Iraqi employers do not own their own domain name and instead use a Web mail e-mail address such as Yahoo.

Basad Abbas, 41, fled Iraq with her 4-year-old son, Amir, after her home was attacked with a concussion bomb, she said. Her husband worked for an Iraqi company contracting for the U.S., which makes her eligible for the refugee program. He is hospitalized with heart problems in Iraq but urged her to apply to the refugee program.

The small construction company that her husband worked for uses a Yahoo address as its official e-mail account.

Such generic e-mail accounts cannot be used for correspondence to verify a refugee’s work, said the State Department official, because the e-mails could come from anyone.

The letter Mrs. Abbas has from the company confirming her husband’s employment also lists multiple phone numbers for the company in Baghdad.

“They said the owner of the company e-mailed them from a Yahoo account,” she said. “They don’t want a Yahoo account. They want an official, private account. But the company doesn’t have one. They said if we don’t have the official e-mail, ‘We can’t do anything for you.’”

For some Iraqis, there is no choice but to return and face the danger at home. Ramzi Mohammed brought his family to Egypt in 2006 after he was kidnapped while leaving his work at Camp Warrior in Baghdad. He escaped, but then insurgents threatened to kidnap his son. Several of his colleagues were killed.

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