Slim but Growing Number of Iraqi Refugees to U.S.

The number of Iraqi refugees who arrived in the United States in August increased almost tenfold compared to the previous month, according to a State Department official involved with refugees.

More than 500 Iraqi refugees made it to U.S. soil in August, the official said, compared to only 57 in July and only 190 from October 2006 through July 2007. The official would only speak on the condition of anonymity because the final figures will not be announced for a few more days.

These cases represent only a fraction of the cases that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which refers refugees to individual countries for resettlement, has referred to the United States since January. The UNHCR has referred more than 9,500 cases to the United States this year.

The State Department official attributed the recent jump in refugees resettled in the United States to an ironing out of the bureaucratic process that had stalled progress in in the past.

The State Department has said it expects 2,000 Iraqi refugees to arrive in the states between October 2006 and September 2007, something officials say is still a goal.

Still, one official admits meeting that goal will be "tough" because only around 700 Iraqi refugees have arrived in the United States so far this year, leaving 1,300 for the remaining month to fulfill the goal.

Since 2003, when the United States toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, only about 1,300 Iraqi refugees have been resettled in the United States. Most of those admitted actually applied for resettlement before the 2003 war began. Only in recent months have refugees who fled after the fall of Saddam been able to arrive in the United States.

The number of Iraqi refugees resettled in the United States pales in comparison with some other countries. Europe saw around 22,000 Iraqi refugees arrive in 2006, including about 9,000 that came to Sweden. That same year only 202 came to the United States. Click here to see global chart.

The State Department has blamed the low numbers on increased security procedures and strict, time-consuming background checks by the Department of Homeland Security. The background checks are required for all refugees wishing to come to the United States.