In-country processing in Iraq

The US has begun processing claims for asylum in Bagdad and resettling the successful applicants. This article in the New Yorker tells the story. Before this change in policy, Iraqis that had worked for the US in some capacity had to, like all other displaced Iraqis, flee to neighbouring countries and become embroiled in local tensions and bureaucracies in order to receive a decision on resettlement – many are still waiting. The decision to process these claims in the Green Zone means individuals are not asked to give up everything for the remote chance of receiving a positive resettlement decision.

What implications might this have for the future of protection? This blog has discussed previously the often perverse logic of protection through the principle of asylum that forces individuals to leave their homes, families and belongings to embark upon a journey fraught with danger and the risk of exploitation only to arrive in a developed country, receive a negative decision and either have to take their chances in the irregular economy or return to their country of origin with nothing. While there are significant operational and political barriers to developing in-country processing in all conflict situations, in theory it does at least demand less of those in need of protection. Furthermore, there is evidence that resettled refugees are often better received by host populations as they are perceived as ‘more genuine’. Can this policy be expanded without undermining the right of asylum?

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