2002 U.S. Refugee Admissions Will Be Lowest in 25 Years
With only one month to go, it is clear that the United States will fall far short of President Bush's pledge to admit 70,000 refugees for resettlement in the fiscal year ending September 30. As of August 31, barely a third of the authorized arrivals have been admitted into the United States. In all likelihood, the admininstration will fail to assist more than 40,000 victims of persecution. This represents the sharpest decline in refugee admissions in the last twenty-five years.
After the attacks of September 11, the refugee resettlement program was immediately suspended while new security measures were put in place. It was the only immigration program to be halted completely. On November 21, citing “humanitarian concerns” and “the national interest,” President Bush lifted the moratorium and called for the admission of 70,000 refugees. But now, nine months later, procedural roadblocks continue to impede the admission of refugees.
America’s faltering commitment to refugee resettlement has left thousands of refugees, including many women and children, stranded in refugee camps, often in dangerous conditions and vulnerable to further persecution and exploitation. “The human tragedy of September 11 continues with each refugee who will not be admitted this year,” said Robert Carey, the IRC’s vice president for resettlement.
The enormous shortfall in admissions comes despite repeated pledges from administration officials to honor the President’s authorization. In February, senior representatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the State Department told a Senate subcommittee that their agencies were committed to resettling 70,000 refugees this year. On June 20, World Refugee Day, Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking on behalf of the President, said, “The Bush administration will not permit the attacks of September 11 and the continuing threat from terrorism to shake our nation’s commitment to refugees.”
“Unfortunately,” said Carey, “that seems to be exactly what has happened. We fully support the additional measures that have made the U.S. Refugee Program even more secure, but the necessary resources must be provided if we are to overcome the bureaucratic delays impeding refugee admissions."