Washington, DC — Although the United States has completed its withdrawal from a 20-year war in Afghanistan, the humanitarian crisis is only just beginning for the most vulnerable Afghans. The Association of Wartime Allies estimates that hundreds of thousands of Afghans—perhaps over one million—who had been eligible for evacuation (even under the tightly circumscribed US priorities) are now left in country with no clear path to refuge. Beyond those who had been eligible for evacuation, thousands to millions more women, girls, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, human rights defenders, ethnic and religious minority groups, and other Afghans are or will be in need of humanitarian relief or protection in the years to come.
In light of the significant needs of vulnerable Afghans and the ongoing humanitarian crises in places such as Burma and the Tigray region of Ethiopia, Refugee Council USA recommends that President Biden set a refugee admissions goal of 200,000 for the 2022 fiscal year, and that the President advocate for a robust level of funding for the US refugee resettlement program, commensurate with this goal and taking into consideration the urgent need to rebuild our nation’s capacity to provide welcome.
A strong refugee admissions goal for the coming year must be accompanied by bold leadership in securing the necessary and corresponding investment and improvements in the overseas and domestic infrastructure that resettles refugees and helps them integrate and thrive in their new communities. Those who do the work of welcoming refugees cannot complete their critical life-saving mission without a sustained investment of resources, including finding long-term solutions to constraints that face all Americans, such as access to affordable housing and medical care.
The modern-day US resettlement program was founded in 1980 on a bipartisan basis following the US withdrawal from Vietnam. The program was designed to be responsive to global developments by resettling the most vulnerable refugees from around the world in partnership with local communities across the United States. Our call to the administration to commit to resettling up to 200,000 refugees harkens back to 1980, when the United States welcomed over 207,000 refugees in a single year.
This refugee admissions goal ensures that the United States has the flexibility to respond to the acute and profound crisis in Afghanistan, while continuing to resettle refugees fleeing violence and persecution from around the world. The United States government must embrace the full restoration and strengthening of the US resettlement program, and rebuild the essential infrastructure it takes to meet this historic moment.
John Slocum, Interim Executive Director of RCUSA said “The United States was able to welcome hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese in a matter of years, while building a new program in partnership with local communities. Today we have the advantage of more than forty years of resettlement leadership and expertise, and across the country we are witnessing a renewed commitment to providing welcome, including a tremendous outpouring of support for Afghan refugees. At a time of unprecedented forced displacement around the world, the US must return to a place of global leadership in offering protection and assistance to refugees. We cannot complete this life-saving mission without the support of the President and Congress, and we ask for their steadfast commitment to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and others forcibly displaced people in the months and years ahead.”
RCUSA is a diverse coalition advocating for just and humane laws and policies, and the promotion of dialogue and communication among government, civil society, and those who need protection and welcome. Individual RCUSA members do not all address all refugee-related issues, nor do all individual members approach all refugee-related issues identically.
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