Effective January 22, 2021, the United States is suspending the Direct Access Program for U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis for 90 days. As the result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Justice is prosecuting individuals for stealing U.S. government records from the Department of State’s Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System to take advantage of the Direct Access Program for U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis. This scheme specifically targeted applications for direct access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program made possible by the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007. This suspension of the Direct Access Program for U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis is necessary to further review and address vulnerabilities. All refugee applicants are subject to stringent security and vetting requirements and are denied refugee status if they have ties to designated terrorist organizations or if they have engaged in terrorist activities. They go through extensive biographic and biometric vetting before they are admitted. There are no indications that the scheme jeopardized the broader refugee admissions program.
The discovery, investigation, and prosecution of these individuals demonstrates the dedication of the personnel charged with maintaining the safety and security of the United States and the American people – we have no higher priority. The message is clear for those who would seek to take advantage of America’s generosity in welcoming the world’s most vulnerable people – you will be held accountable.
We recognize the importance of assisting those who legitimately put their lives at risk to provide critical support to the United States in Iraq and we do not take the decision to suspend this program lightly. The United States has been and will continue to be a leader in the global response to humanitarian crises, including in Iraq. In addition to the resettlement of more than 3.1 million refugees since 1980, the United States is the world’s largest humanitarian assistance donor. Since Fiscal Year 2014, the United States has provided more than $3 billion in humanitarian assistance in Iraq and for Iraqis in the region, including more than $47 million to combat COVID-19 inside Iraq. Our assistance provides critical shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, protection, education, livelihoods, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services.