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Brooke Anderson

Hundreds of refugees approved for US resettlement forced to delay travel

President Joe Biden has promised to increase refugee admissions to the US [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 March, 2021

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Hundreds of refugees were forced to unbook or delay their flights last week, agencies assisting with their resettlement said.
WASHINGTON D.C. (The New Arab) - Hundreds of refugees planning on relocating to the United States were forced to unbook or delay their flights last week, according to refugee agencies that have been working directly with them to assist in resettlement.

“We’re talking about people who have been through so much to get here. When you talk about people who have been through so much trauma, you would hate to see people lose hope,” said JC Hendrickson, senior director of policy and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee, one of the nine refugee agencies in the US that assists new arrivals.

He told The New Arab that at least 168 of the refugees assisted by the IRC, representing only a fraction of those who have been affected, have had their travels upended.

“We need to get moving. On the part of IRC, we’re ready to go. We’re ready to meet the moment,” Hendrickson said.

President Joe Biden promised to significantly increase the limit on numbers of refugees admitted to the US after his predecessor, Donald Trump, had set the cap at historic lows. But this recent development shows that Biden's pledge may require more time than anticipated.

Although Biden proposed raising the limit in the fiscal year 2021 from Trump’s limit of 15,000 to 62,500, the current fiscal year remains the same one in which Trump set his latest numbers.
Biden has also reaffirmed his commitment to raise it again to 125,000 by October 1.

The president's pledge, however, remains at the proposal stage.

The process starts with the State Department, which issues a report that is reviewed by Congress, which is required to consult with the House and Senate judiciary committees. This feedback is taken into consideration and a final order is then signed by the president.

In addition, Biden will be reversing Trump’s categorisation of refugees, which had been made political rather than geographical during the last administration, thereby creating a bias against Muslim applicants. Under the previous administration’s rules, a Muslim refugee coming from a Muslim-majority country would have been at a disadvantage compared to religious minorities.

Refugees, according to the United Nations, are those who have been forced to flee their countries due to persecution, war, or violence.

"Resettlement saves lives. At a time when more people have been forcibly uprooted around the world than ever before, resettlement is a precious solution also needed today more than ever for the most vulnerable refugees,” Andrea Mucino-Sanchez, associate public information and communications officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told The New Arab.

“We will continue to urge the United States and all countries to make more places available for the people who need this protection most. They include at-risk women and girls, victims of torture and others who are not truly safe in the country where they first arrive." 

Brooke Anderson is The New Arab's correspondent in Washington D.C., covering US and international politics, business and culture.

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