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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

U.S. Department of State

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
November 25, 2002

Refugee Admissions Program for Near East and South Asia

Background

Since 1980, more than 133,000 refugees from Near East and South Asian countries have been offered resettlement in the U.S. Most have been Iranian (about 58,000), Iraqi (36,000), or Afghan (33,000). The majority of refugees currently identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as in need of third country resettlement are, Iraqis and Iranians, often members of religious and ethnic minorities or extremely vulnerable Women at Risk who have sought temporary asylum in other countries in the region. INS conducts periodic refugee interviewing visits to Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, and interviews from permanent offices in India and Pakistan. UNHCR continues to refer particularly vulnerable Afghans for who repatriation is not a viable “durable solution” to the program for U.S. resettlement in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Due to additional new administrative requirements imposed on the program in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, other processing disruptions, and a changed political environment in Afghanistan, only some 1,800 refugees from the region were admitted to the U.S. Resettlement Program in FY 2002, a substantial decrease from the 12,000 admitted in FY 2001

Iraqis. Nearly two million Iraqis fled the fighting during the Gulf War. Though most returned at the end of the war, significant numbers remained in countries of first asylum, fearing persecution in Iraq. Some 39,000, including ethnic and religious minorities and others who participated in the uprising against the Iraqi regime, remained in refugee camps in Saudi Arabia. From 1991 until 1997, the U.S. participated in a multi-country resettlement effort led by the UNHCR for Iraqi refugees in Rafha camp in Saudi Arabia. The effort resulted in third country resettlement of 24,260 refugees; about 12,500 came to the U.S. The Department of State and INS coordinated another U.S. resettlement visit to Rafha camp in June 2000 to process referrals of over 200 Iraqi refugees not previously interviewed. The Department of State and INS continue to process Iraqi refugees in several countries in the region.

Iranians. In Iran, the Islamic government restricts religious freedom and subjects certain religious minorities to widespread discrimination and harassment. Members of these groups often face legal penalties and persecution. As persons of special concern to the United States, refugees who are members of Iranian religious minorities are eligible to apply to our program regardless of family links and without UNHCR referral. They must be able to demonstrate in an individual interview with the INS that they have experienced persecution. Most Iranians are now processed in Turkey and Austria.

Afghans. More than two million Afghan refugees who fled from civil war and Taliban oppression to neighboring Iran and Pakistan have repatriated to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Despite this massive repatriation, there remain a number of refugees for whom resettlement is the only viable durable solution. Urban Afghan women who may have worked outside the home before the Taliban took power and who have no immediate male family members have been identified by the Department of State and UNHCR as most in need of resettlement. Processing of vulnerable Afghan refugees in Pakistan continues despite a difficult security environment and of Indo-Pakistani tensions.

FY 2003 Admissions Program

The FY 2003 ceiling for refugee admissions from the Near East and South Asia is 7,000. The Department of State is working with UNHCR to identify refugees in the region requiring resettlement, especially women-at-risk. Refugees from the Middle East are also processed from central Asian and Caucasus countries.

 
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