Iraqi Refugees in Minnesota

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the primary entity tasked with ensuring the protection of refugees in countries of asylum in the region. Resettlement to the US or one of nine other resettlement countries is a possibility for only a limited number of these refugees. The UNHCR has eleven criteria to determine if resettlement is appropriate, including Iraqis who worked for the Multinational Force in Iraq, the US government or US companies, households headed by women, torture survivors, and members of religious minorities.

Many Iraqi refugees who have resettled to Minnesota are highly educated professionals and successful businesspeople including doctors and engineers who speak English. For this group, one of the most frustrating realities of resettlement is that they lose the value of their education and training and cannot practice their profession in the US without going through a lengthy and complicated – many times impossible – recertification process.

Important Facts from UNHCR:

• More than 4 million Iraqis have been uprooted due to violence and human rights violations with 2 million in Syria and Jordan and another 2 million internally displaced

• One in seven Iraqis is now uprooted with a further 2,000 estimated to be fleeing daily

• Largest population movement in the Middle East since 1948

The number of Iraqis in Minnesota is difficult to estimate. According to the 2000 census, Iraqis in Minnesota numbered only 500. However, a Special Agent of the FBI’s Minneapolis office, which interviewed Minnesota Iraqis for homeland security purposes in late 2002 and early 2003, says about 1,000 Iraqis live in the metropolitan area alone. In Minnesota, most Iraqis live in Fridley, Coon Rapids, and Brooklyn Park. 2013 estimates, with new refugee arrivals, place the number of Iraqis in Minnesota at about 2,000.

Minnesota is also home to the restaurant Babani’s, famed to be the first Kurdish restaurant to open in the United States.

Additional Resources:

Refugees from Iraq  Center for Applied Linguistics

Muslim Refugees in the United States: A Guide for Service Providers  Center for Applied Linguistics

Iraq in Minnesota: An Information Resource for Journalists & Citizens  McGill Report

Iraqi refugees have new word for home – it’s Minnesota  StarTribune

Fact Sheet: Iraqis in Minnesota  Statis Health

From Iraq to Minnesota: A New Life  NPR