Pentagon warns drop in Iraqi refugee admission could present risk: report

Pentagon warns drop in Iraqi refugee admission could present risk: report

The Department of Defense last week during a closed-door session at the White House warned that a sharp drop in the admission of Iraqi refugees who have aided U.S. forces in the past could present a national security risk.

Reuters reports that Pentagon officials are worried that the FBI's policy of conducting deep background checks on Iraqi refugees is the main contributor to the drop in admissions, which the department warns will dissuade civilians in the region from aiding U.S. personnel in the future.

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Just 48 Iraqi refugees have been admitted to the U.S. so far in fiscal 2018 through a special State Department program meant to aid people who worked for the U.S. government or contractors. That number is compared to 3,000 who came in the same period last year, and 5,100 the year before, according to the State Department.

FBI officials confirmed to Reuters that the background checks, called Security Advisory Opinions, had experienced a rising "hit rate" of supposedly suspicious information in recent years, but said it was unclear what was causing more applications to be flagged over suspicious information.

One possible reason for the higher "hit rate" is new vetting procedures implemented by the Trump administration that requires that applicants submit phone numbers and email addresses for more family members than before.

An official with the Department of Homeland Security told Reuters that the agency is “making it harder for terrorists, criminals, and individuals seeking to exploit the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”

Refugee applicants are now forced to undergo "more thorough security vetting than ever before” the agency added.

Refugee advocates told Reuters that the lower level of admissions left many U.S.-aligned Iraqis with nowhere to turn for aid.

“Iraqis with a U.S. affiliation currently have no avenue to safety,” International Refugee Assistance Project Policy Director Betsy Fisher told the news service.