U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker has asked the Bush administration to take the unusual step of granting immigrant visas to all Iraqis employed by the U.S. government in Iraq, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The reason for doing this is that there is growing concern that the U.S. employed Iraqis will quit their jobs and flee the country if they cannot be assured eventual safe passage to the United States, the report said.
Crocker's request comes as the administration is struggling to respond to the flood of Iraqis who have sought refuge in neighboring countries since sectarian fighting escalated in early 2006.
The U.S. has admitted only 133 Iraqi refugees since October 2006, despite predicting that it would process 7,000 by the end of September 2007.
"Our Iraqi staff members work under extremely difficult conditions, and are targets of violence including murder and kidnapping," Crocker was quoted as saying in a letter to Undersecretary of State Henrietta H. Fore.
"Unless they know that there is some hope of an immigrant visa in the future, many will continue to seek asylum, leaving our mission lacking in one of our most valuable assets," Crocker said.
Crocker's two-page telegram dramatizes how Iraq's instability and a rapidly increasing refugee population are creating new pressures to help those who are threatened or displaced.
As public sentiment grows for a partial or full American withdrawal, U.S. embassy officials are facing demands from their own employees to secure a reliable exit route, and the administration as a whole is facing pressure from aid groups, lawmakers and diplomats to do more for those upended by the war, the newspapers said.