Translators: Numbers from Iraq

Five thousand. Or is it seven thousand?

That’s how many Iraqi translators/interpreters work for the US military forces in Iraq, directly or more likely through private contractors.

“It is hard to get an exact figure for how many Iraqis work as translators for U.S. military and reconstruction teams,” says a recent Reuters report. “Most work for a contractor which pays about 8,000 translators a flat fee of $750 a month. They can earn bonuses of $150 a month if they live with their units and another $150 if they go out on patrols.”

Recruiting ads in the United States offer $150,000 a year and more for linguists to go to Iraq.


None of the translators is issued body armor.


That’s how many Iraqis obtained visas to come to the United States last year.

Seven thousand is how many Iraqis are supposed to be allowed visas this year under S 1651, the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, introduced in June.

“We are hopeful this legislation will provide a safe haven to those thousands of brave Iraqi and Afghani translators and interpreters who have put their lives on the line for the U.S. government,” said Marla Schulman, President, Association of Language Companies. “As a humanitarian gesture, the government should offer protection to these courageous linguists and their loved ones.”

Two hundred seventy-two.

According to Human Rights First, “As of June 20—World Refugee Day—the United States had resettled only 272 Iraqi refugees since October 2005.”

One hundred? Five hundred?

That’s how many are likely to actually obtain those visas this year, according to some estimates.

“In order to even apply,” according to a Marine Corps News article, “translators must have a record of their military work history, a recommendation from a general or flag officer, and a personal statement explaining why they are requesting U.S. citizenship. . . .

“Those qualified must then organize a package that requires a $375 processing fee and additional documentation, such as a birth certificate, a passport and any court or prison records, according to Lt. Col. Kim C. Johnson, the human resources officer with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) assistant chief of staff. Johnson handles personnel issues for the 2nd MLG (Fwd), much like a human resources officer in the private sector.

“She said many Iraqi army soldiers and policemen have asked about the program, but unfortunately the opportunity is only available to translators. . . . “

The report further details the process in terms of one woman’s experience. “Once the package is ready, it is then sent to be overlooked at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in Lincoln, Neb. Her package was recently forwarded to the Department of State’s National Visa Center in Portsmouth, N.H. Once her package is processed, she must make another administrative payment, this time for $380, and travel to Jordan for an interview, which determines whether her passport receives a visa stamp. If so, she can then travel to the states and conduct additional interviews as part of the process. . . . .

“There are 500 visas available this year after only 50 last year.”


The British government has said it cannot bend asylum rules for 91 interpreters who have worked with British military forces in Iraq. Some of them, according to news reports, were told to apply for visas at the British website.

Australia’s immigration minister “confirmed there would be no special treatment for Iraqis working for the Australian embassy or the Australian Defence Force.” If these “general duties” employees want to go to Australia, they can “join the queue.”

Two hundred.

Denmark removed some 60 to 80 translators (reports vary) and family members in advance of withdrawing its troops from Iraq – a total of about 200 people.

Three hundred and counting.

That’s an estimate — the US military does not track and contractor firms are not required to report contractor deaths — of how many translators/interpreters have been killed because of their work for the US military in Iraq (major contractor Titan stated a toll of 257 some months back). Not to mention those who have assisted Western news organizations. And it continues: from Reuters: An Iraqi translator working for CBS News was found dead this week after being abducted from his home on August 20.


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