US to relocate more child refugees fleeing violence around the world

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As part of the overhaul of U.S. refugee policy, the Biden administration plans to provide humanitarian sanctuary to more children fleeing violence around the world, according to a government report by CBS News.

The report, which was prepared by the State Department to inform the Justice Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate of President Biden’s proposal to increase refugee admission, required the US to relocate more unaccompanied refugee minors in the future. Arrivals of these refugee children, who have no parents or guardians to care for them, declined sharply during the Trump administration – and were effectively halted this fiscal year.

“Given the limited resettlement periods in European countries, the United States will be an important partner in improving URM resettlement,” the report said, using the acronym for unaccompanied refugee minors.

A State Department spokesman confirmed that the administration had forwarded the report to Congress and said the department would “now have meaningful consultations with lawmakers”.

The obligation to relocate more children in the US who fled war and violence overseas is part of the Biden administration Efforts to rebuild the country’s long-running refugee program, gutted under former President Donald Trump, which portrayed refugees as economic and security threats and reduced their intake to record lows.

In fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017, the US relocated 294, 212 and 243 unaccompanied refugee children, respectively, according to the government of CBS News. Arrivals fell after Mr. Trump took office, hitting 116 in 2018, 156 in 2019 and 101 in 2020.

The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the United States Bishops’ Conference, the only organizations working with the government to relocate unaccompanied refugee children in the United States, said they have not relocated any of these minors in the current fiscal year that began in the year have October.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA REFUGEE CONFLICT
An Eritrean refugee youth watches from a shop when a child stands in the Mai Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia on January 30, 2021.

EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP via Getty Images


The Biden administration’s report to Congress found that this pause in resettlement of unaccompanied refugee minors is “in increasing global need”, taking into account the plight of minors from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African countries plagued by conflict and political instability is noted.

“As one of the few countries with the domestic ability to relocate unaccompanied minors, increased refugee admissions would allow us to handle emergencies from (unaccompanied refugee minors) evacuated from Libya by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ) to transit points in Niger and Rwanda and minors persecuted in Ethiopia and elsewhere, “the report said.

At the end of 2019 there were approximately 153,300 unaccompanied refugee children. This emerges from a United Nations report that found the number was likely underestimated. The United Nations Refugee Agency has identified more than 1.4 million refugees worldwide in urgent need of relocation.

The U.S. Unaccompanied Minor Refugee Program, established in the 1980s, was a relatively small initiative, but it remains the only one in the world specifically designed for refugee children who cannot be relocated with their parents. According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, more than 13,000 children have been relocated as part of the program.

The program places refugee children in nursing homes in the United States, connects them with social workers, and provides them with financial assistance, educational, legal, and recreational services. The refugees participating in the initiative can continue to receive care up to the age of 23, depending on the child welfare policy in the countries in which they live.

All refugees receive medical and health checks before they are relocated to the United States.

Proponents welcomed the Biden government’s plan, saying that refugee children across the world face life and death situations.

“These children are the children most at risk,” Ashley Feasley, policy director for the Migration Refugee Services Division of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CBS News. “These are children in refugee camps or in urban refugee situations who have no parents or guardians or even an extended family who can adequately care for them.”

Heavy rain floods Syrian refugee camps in Idlib
A Syrian boy pulls his bicycle in the muddy water in the Zaitoun refugee camp after a heavy rainstorm on January 19, 2021 caused a flood in Syrian refugee camps in Idlib.

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Feasley’s group and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are calling on the Biden government to allocate 1% of all refugee places to unaccompanied children.

That would mean 625 jobs if the administration goes along with their proposal to set a cap of 62,500 people for the current fiscal year, and 1,250 jobs in fiscal 2022 if Mr Biden committed to setting a target for resettling up to 125,000 refugees.

“We are the only country in the world that has the ability, experience and expertise to relocate these children. Therefore, there is a compelling moral imperative for the US,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. said CBS News.

After President Barack Obama set an ambitious target of 110,000 refugees in 2016, Trump lowered the annual refugee limit each year and set a historically low limit of 15,000 before he left office.

Mr Trump also narrowed down who might be eligible for resettlement, removed regional allocations of refugee places, and established categories for specific groups, such as people fleeing religious persecution. Last year, the Trump administration said it would no longer accept refugee cases from the United Nations Refugee Agency that fall outside of these narrow categories.

Resettlement groups and the Biden government said this change has stopped accepting unaccompanied refugee children as they have been referred to the US by the United Nations Refugee Agency in the past. In its report to Congress, the Biden government said it planned to resume accepting individual referrals from the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The administration also proposes to return to the regional allocation of refugee places. Mr Biden’s proposal would distribute 22,000 refugee places for Africa, 13,000 for the Middle East and South Asia, 6,000 for East Asia, 5,000 for Latin America and the Caribbean, and 4,000 for Europe and Central Asia. The remaining 12,500 places would not be allocated to specific regions.

“This approach would also ensure there is the ability to respond to URM’s particular vulnerabilities no matter where they are, especially since the United States is the only country that URM offers significant refugee resettlement,” said the government in their report report.

Last week, Mr Biden also ordered the state and homeland security departments to resume an Obama-era program that allowed violent children in Central America to enter the US on refugee or parole status while they had family members in the country Approval.

The Interagency program, which was first launched in 2014 in response to a surge in border crossings by unaccompanied Central American children, has been discontinued by the Trump administration.

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