Refugee Admissions to U.S. Have Dropped Sharply
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Long after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, refugees around the world are still feeling the after-effects.
For tens of thousands of refugees languishing in camps—many of whom had been approved for admission to the United States prior to the attacks and many still waiting to rejoin family members already in the United States after lengthy separations—another year of danger and despair has passed. Their lives and future remain in limbo.
New security measures were critical following the attacks, says Robert Carey, the International Rescue Committee’s vice president for resettlement. But one tragic and unnecessary consequence of the new measures, he said, has been the handicapping of America’s refugee resettlement program.
When the 2002 fiscal year ended September 30, only 27,113 of the targeted 70,000 had been admitted to the United States. It was the lowest number by far since the passage of the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980.
The government’s figures for 2003 are also disheartening and raise questions about U.S. resolve to continue its tradition of providing refuge to those fleeing terror and persecution.
On October 16, President Bush signed a presidential determination establishing 70,000 as the number of refugees the United States will admit in the 2003 fiscal year. The determination designated slots for only 50,000 of the 70,000 as follows:
20,000 for Africa, 14,000 for the former Soviet Union, 7,000 for the Near East, 4,000 for East Asia, 2,500 for Eastern Europe, 2,500 for Latin America and the Caribbean, and 20,000 not allotted.
The International Rescue Committee expressed concern that 20,000 places were unallocated. “In previous years, those unallocated slots have gone unused,” said Abigail Price of the IRC’s resettlement department.
She added, “It sends a terrible signal to other resettlement countries that follow our lead, like Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Australia, that the United States is turning way from its commitment to assisting refugees.” Price said the IRC will double its efforts to work with the administration and the INS to help them and press them to meet their stated admissions goal.
Support for refugee admissions has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The two top members of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) have urged the administration to increase refugee admissions to set an example for the rest of the world.