The US State Department announced the suspension of the program for accepting Iraqi refugees, temporarily, due to the discovery of a data breach and theft of asylum applicants’ files.
The US Bloomberg Agency said that the ministry stopped the program urgently for a period of 90 days, after an indictment was issued by the US Department of Justice – Friday – against 3 people, accused of stealing confidential data for about 1,500 Iraqis seeking refuge in the United States.
According to the indictment, two of the defendants – a Jordanian and a Russian – were former employees of the US Customs and Immigration Department, and we were able to access the applicants’ information and send it to an Iraqi citizen during the period between 2016 and 2019, and the data contained questions that interlocutors may ask asylum seekers. In addition to their case assessments and other information.
The investigators explained that the fraud was directed by Aws Mowaffaq Abdul-Jabbar, an Iraqi citizen living in Jordan, whose application for refugee status in the United States was rejected earlier, according to the “Washington Times” (The Washington Times).
The other two persons in question were employees of the US Immigration Service, one in Jordan and the other in Russia, where they were able to access hundreds of files, and handed them over to Abdul-Jabbar, who paid them more than a thousand dollars each time, as stated in the indictment, according to the same source. .
The investigators confirmed that “the leaked information may have been used to help Iraqis formulate their asylum applications and try to obtain approvals when they are rejected.”
Prosecutors said that “the three accused may have caused some eligible refugees to leave the waiting list in the immigration program.”
Commenting on this, State Department spokesman Ned Price said – in a tweet on Twitter – that “the United States holds accountable people who exploited the refugee program for personal gain,” stressing that “suspending the program for a period of 90 days will address weaknesses and preserve the safety and security of the American people.” .
Established in 2008, the program allows Iraqis who worked with the US government and military and media institutions during and after the Iraq war to apply for direct asylum to the United States, rather than having to go through UN programs.