WASHINGTON – The United States admitted fewer Iraqi refugees in August than in the previous record-setting month, but remains on pace to meet the Bush administration's goal of 12,000 by the end of September.
The State Department said Wednesday that 2,183 Iraqi refugees entered the country last month, down from 2,352 in July.
August's figure brings the number of Iraqi refugees accepted in the U.S. to 10,998 since the current budget year began on Oct. 1. This means the administration will only have to accept 1,002 more refugees in September to reach 12,000. August was the fourth straight month where admissions surpassed the administration's target of 1,000 refugees per month, so it's likely that the overall goal will be met.
The target is far lower than other many countries, notably Sweden, which has admitted about 40,000 since 2003. And it's only a small slice of the 2 million Iraqis who have fled to neighboring countries, mainly Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt.
The Bush administration has come under criticism from advocacy groups and lawmakers for its performance on admitting Iraqi refugees who have fled violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Many critics say, and officials have acknowledged, that the administration has a moral obligation to the refugees.
In July a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced a bill that would create an ambassador-level post at the White House to oversee efforts to assist Iraqi refugees. Currently, that policy is handled by the departments of State and Homeland Security.