Kosovar Refugee Resettlement Update
A U.S. resettlement team that spent this week in Macedonia has drawn up streamlined procedures that will help bring 20,000 Kosovar refugees to the United States beginning as early as next week.
The team included Kay Bellor, the IRC's Director of Resettlement, who represented the IRC and the nine other U.S. refugee resettlement agencies, as well as representatives from the Department of State, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The team met with the government of Macedonia, representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, IRC Macedonia and others to determine how best to implement the U.S. resettlement plan and process refugees quickly. A location between the two largest refugee camps - Stankovac I and II - was identified as a processing site.
IOM, assisted by IRC staff members, is scheduled to begin operations at the site within the next few days, paving the way for the INS to begin conducting interviews. To speed up the initial flow, it is expected that the first group of refugees cleared for admission to the U.S. will be flown to Fort Dix, N.J., where their processing will be completed.
While in Macedonia, the U.S. resettlement team visited Stankovac I, the largest refugee camp, and Neprosteno, a camp run by the IRC. Bellor said the frustration level among refugees in Stankovac I and II was especially high. "Refugees who have languished in the camps for weeks sometimes see newer arrivals leave before them [to be resettled in other countries], and are frustrated. This operation will relieve some of the mounting pressure." Today, April 30, the UNHCR said conditions in the camps in Macedonia was "critical" and urged European nations to speed up evacuations.
The U.S. resettlement plan will admit refugees with family members already in the U.S. as well as vulnerable refugees and those with special needs. This week IRC resettlement offices in the U.S. have accepted applications from family members willing to sponsor several thousand Kosovar refugees, and other resettlement agencies across the country have also reported a strong response from potential sponsors.