RCUSA urges that in fiscal year 2018, the Presidential Determination (PD) be at least 75,000 refugees. The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, currently estimates that nearly 1.2 million refugees in vulnerable and dangerous situations around the world will need to be resettled to a third country in the coming year.1 In the midst of the worst global displacement crisis in history with more than 22.5 million refugees worldwide, it would be inhumane and an abdication of U.S. leadership to resettle fewer than 75,000 refugees next year. U.S. refugee resettlement is a life-saving public-private partnership that must continue.
Durable Solutions Refugees are individuals who have fled their homes due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group in their home country. There are three traditional solutions for refugees, known as durable solutions: repatriation, local integration, and resettlement. In the case of repatriation, a refugee returns safely to their country of origin, free from fear of persecution. In the case of local integration, a refugee is able to integrate into the country (in most cases, a country neighboring their own) to which they fled. The last option, when others are not available, is resettlement to a third country. Refugees are referred to one of 37 countries for resettlement.
Resettlement: A Final Option for Safety Resettlement has often been referred to as the “last resort” for refugees who cannot integrate locally or return safely to their home country; it is a critical safety net in the humanitarian system. Less than 1% of refugees worldwide have access to resettlement. Due to ongoing wars, regional instability, lack of economic or governmental infrastructure, and persistent threats of persecution, many refugees will never be able to repatriate to their country of origin safely. Additionally, due to particular vulnerabilities such as extreme medical conditions, LGBTQI persons, or single-female heads of household, continued threats to safety in refugee camps, or lack of ability to work or go to school, many refugees will never be able to integrate into the community to which they fled.
Refugees are the most rigorously vetted individuals to enter the U.S. and must pass through a series of steps aimed at ensuring they will not pose a security risk to our country, including providing biographic and biometric information. The information examined to confirm a refugee’s identity is checked against law enforcement, intelligence community, and other relevant databases, including National Counterterrorism Center, Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security databases. Resettlement is also a critical tool to alleviate regional instability and advance our national security interests.2
Regions of Concern According to UNHCR, large scale emergencies persist around the world and have exacerbated the large and overly protracted refugee situations. In Africa, the vast majority of refugees have been living in protracted refugee situations for over 20 years. 3 Countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Rwanda remain among the world’s highest source for refugees seeking protection from war, religious persecution, and state-sponsored terrorism. In Sudan, continued armed conflicts between warring parties in several regions have resulted in 650,000 new refugees since 2016. Since gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan has been plagued by civil war, famine, and ethnic violence and as of 2016, one in four people in South Sudan had become a refugee. To the east, Somalia continues to experience attacks towards religious minorities and unstable and unsafe conditions due to civil war. Due to ongoing violence and a lack of access to basic necessities, refugees that have fled persecution in these countries remain unable to return home, making resettlement a necessary solution. UNHCR predicts that 442,000 African refugees will need resettlement in 2017. 4 Targeted violence from gangs, smugglers, and drug traffickers continue to plague children and other vulnerable persons in the Northern Triangle. Honduras and El Salvador have the highest murder rates in the world,5 and medical and human rights organizations such as Doctors Without Borders6 and UNHCR7 have documented the ongoing protection needs of children in the region fleeing their homes as asylumseekers. Due to the lack of human rights protections, sustained poverty, and threats to violence, UNHCR predicts that almost 8,000 people will need resettlement from Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017. 8
Since 2011, the conflict in Syria has wreaked extensive violence and hardship on individuals and families, including torture, enforced disappearances, massacres, chemical warfare, and bombing of civilians and hospitals.9 Five million refugees have fled Syria, and half of those are children. There is no end in sight to this conflict and host countries like Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon cannot sustainably continue hosting millions of refugees. UNHCR predicts that 476,000 Syrians will need resettlement in 2017. Due to ongoing wars, ethnic conflicts, religious violence, and political instability, Iraq suffers from one of the largest displacement crises in the world. In Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, “refugees are often trapped in the midst of fighting,” and resettlement offers life-saving protection. 10
In the Asia region, which includes Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and India, UNHCR has identified 153,358 persons in need of resettlement in 2017. In East Asia, Burma and Bhutan remain the highest source of refugees. In Burma, the largest ethnic groups to flee are the Rohingya, who are persecuted for their religious beliefs, and the Karen, who have faced ethnic cleansing and Burmese military abuses.
In Europe, UNHCR finds that due to ongoing fighting, a large number of persons in need of medical care or at risk of sexual or gender-based violence, and host states with strained resources, resettlement remains a critical option for refugees in countries such as Ukraine and Malta. Particularly in Ukraine, the continued war and violence has caused large-scale displacement and UNHCR estimates over 1,500 people will need resettlement in the coming year. 11
Finding Safety and Opportunity in the United States Refugees are assigned to one of nine resettlement agencies that partner with the federal government to facilitate the refugee’s reception, housing, and integration into a safe, new home and local community. While the limited, initial government investment in refugee processing and post-arrival integration services is critical, the resettlement program is defined by the countless volunteer hours, private donations, and local congregations and organizations that contribute to refugees’ success. Working alongside local community stakeholders such as law enforcement, faith congregations, corporate partners, health providers, educators, and other local stakeholders, local resettlement programs serve resettled refugees and assist them in obtaining self-sufficiency and a sense of belonging in their new communities.
Through initial support of time-limited benefits, intensive case management, and job and English language training, refugees are able to successfully achieve independence and in turn, they contribute greatly to their new communities as consumers, entrepreneurs, and taxpayers. Data from the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research shows that “refugees pay $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their first 20 years in the U.S.” 12
Refugees integrate into our communities becoming students, doctors, faith leaders, elected officials, teachers, and friends. A recent study from New American Economy reveals that “more than 84 percent of refugees who have been in the country for 16 to 25 years have taken the step of becoming citizens. More than 57 percent of all likely refugee households own their homes, a figure relatively close to home ownership rate among U.S. residents overall.” 13 It is through resettlement that persecuted persons find safety and can contribute positively to our nation.
5 https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-06-27/map-here-are-countries-worlds-highest-murder-rates 6 http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/article/neglected-humanitarian-crisis-central-americas-northern-triangle
9 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/15/world/middleeast/syria-bashar-al-assad-evidence.html 10 http://www.unhcr.org/protection/resettlement/575836267/unhcr-projected-global-resettlement-needs-2017.html