UNHCR Alarmed at Impact of U.S. Refugee Program Suspension
31 January 2017
GENEVA – UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is deeply worried by the uncertainty facing thousands of refugees around the world who are in the process of being resettled to the United States.
This week alone, over 800 refugees were set to make America their new home, but instead find themselves barred from travelling to the U.S. UNHCR estimates that 20,000 refugees in precarious circumstances might have been resettled to the United States during the 120 days covered by the suspension announced Friday, based on average monthly figures for the last 15 years. Refugees are anxious, confused and heartbroken at this suspension in what is already a lengthy process.
Refugees share the very same concerns about security and safety that Americans have. They themselves are fleeing war, persecution, oppression and terrorism. The individuals and families UNHCR refers to governments for resettlement are the most vulnerable – such as people needing urgent medical assistance, survivors of torture, and women and girls at risk. The new homes provided by resettlement countries are life-saving for people who have no other options.
The vast majority of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries, and less than 1 per cent will ever be resettled globally. Those accepted for resettlement by the United States, after a rigorous US security screening process, are coming to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. UNHCR hopes that they will be able to do so as soon as possible.
Resettlement has been a sign of tangible solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable refugees. It is also an important way governments and communities can help share responsibility with major refugee-hosting countries, which have been shouldering the brunt of the displacement crisis in recent years.
For decades, the United States has been a global leader in refugee protection, a tradition rooted in the tolerance and generosity of the American people. UNHCR hopes the U.S. will continue its strong leadership role and its long history of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.
The High Commissioner underlines once again UNHCR’s position that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.