U.S. Welcomes Record Number of Refugees

By Jane Morse
Staff Writer
The United States welcomed a record number of refugees in fiscal year 2013.

The 69,930 refugees who found safe haven this year in the United States represent the Obama administration’s commitment to creating a refugee admissions program that meets important security screening standards as well as growing humanitarian need. The number of admitted refugees also is closer to the authorized ceiling — 70,000 in 2013 — than in any year since 1980, according to figures provided by the U.S. Department of State.

“Thousands of people overseas and across the United States make the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program possible each year,” said Anne Richard, the State Department’s assistant secretary for population, refugees and migration. “They deserve credit for making this program so successful. It is a testament to the effective partnership between the public and private sectors and reflects the best values of the United States,” she said.

The top five nationalities resettled to the United States in 2013 were Iraqi, Burmese, Bhutanese, Somali and Cuban. Upon their arrival in the United States, refugees have been resettled in 186 communities in 49 states. Through use of transit centers hosted by the governments of Romania and Slovakia, the United States was able to resettle Iraqi refugees trapped by the war in Syria as well as at-risk Afghan women who were formerly in Iran.

According to the State Department, the violence in Syria has led to more than 4.25 million Syrians being displaced internally and more than 1.5 million becoming refugees.

For fiscal year 2014, President Obama authorized the admission of another 70,000 refugees, representing some 60 nationalities from around the world. The United States expects strong arrivals from Iraq, Burma and Bhutan. Efforts are being made to increase the number of Congolese and Syrian refugees who wish to settle in the United States.

A refugee is legally described as someone who has fled from his or her home country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are approximately 15.4 million refugees in the world. The UNHCR reports that less than 1 percent of all refugees are eventually resettled in third countries. Of these, the United States welcomes over half, more than all other resettlement countries combined. More than 3 million refugees have come to the United States in the last 35 years, according to the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The United States is also the single-largest donor to international relief efforts for refugees.

In remarks delivered June 20 for World Refugee Day, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of America’s “proud tradition of welcoming those fleeing violence and persecution.”

“Their presence makes our country more diverse, our culture richer and our national character stronger,” Kerry said.

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