|July 23, 2004|
Released by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
July 23, 2004
In This Issue:
Long Wait is Over: Hmong from Wat Tham Krabok Begin Arriving in U.S.
Long Wait is Over: Hmong from Wat Tham Krabok Begin Arriving in U.S.
States, Agencies Preparing for Big Influx of Hmong Refugees
Hmong refugees from Wat Tham Krabok, Thailand, have begun arriving in the United States—30 years after the end of the Vietnam War and about 10 years after arriving at the Wat (the Thai word for temple). More than 5,000 are expected to reach the U.S. by the end of September and 10,000 more are expected to arrive by the end of the year.
The Hmong resettlement program was announced in December 2003 and the Wat processing site has been a beehive of activity since January. Pre-screening of the 15,500 refugees was completed in June. The entire group received a full complement of vaccinations the last week in May. DHS officers have been busy conducting interviews and plan to complete them by July 26. Approval rates have been extremely high.
All Hmong refugees at the Wat over the age of 15 will attend an interactive cultural orientation that has been tailored to address their specific needs and questions. More community orientation will be provided to them by refugee resettlement service providers and their families once they arrive in the U.S.
PRM has been working closely with state refugee coordinators in states that will receive the refugees. (Nearly 90 percent will be resettled in California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, which already have large Hmong communities.) Despite a shorter than normal preparation time, a broad effort has been mobilized to prepare for the arriving Hmong:
-- PRM has asked the voluntary resettlement agencies to speed up return of sponsorship assurances for the Hmong cases. Family members of arriving refugees identified during the pre-screening process are being contacted by the staffs of affiliate resettlement offices to ensure that families are reunited after being separated for many years.
-- State refugee coordinators have been mobilizing their service networks to ensure that health and social service providers are ready to serve the Hmong.
-- Voluntary agencies and mutual assistance associations have rallied community groups to generate private donations such as furniture, clothing and household appliances.
-- Regional workshops are being organized by the Hmong working group that has been organized by Refugee Council USA and the Hmong National Development Organization.
-- School systems in the main receiving states are busy preparing for large influxes of children who don’t speak English. (More than 60 percent of the refugees are under the age of 18.)
Though the arriving Hmong face the usual cultural, diet, and language difficulties, they have an advantage over earlier Hmong arrivals who often came from rural refugee camps. Many are familiar with features of modern life such as electricity, running water, television, cell phones—even the Internet. They are eager, according to reports from the Wat, to begin their new lives in the U.S., study English, find employment and become self-sufficient.
Group Methodology Piloted By UNHCR Is Gaining Ground
Refining, institutionalizing, and assessing a new group methodology for refugee referrals -- that is the challenge UNHCR faces as it strives to create a method and vocabulary for discussing groups.
Group methodology is “a way of putting the pros and cons on the table,” said Phyllis Coven, who developed it. She is the UNHCR Senior Advisor on Resettlement and has worked in the field with INS, DHS, and the UN for many years. Her work is part of a UNHCR initiative, funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, to enhance resettlement as a means of protection and as a durable solution for refugees.
The concept was presented at the Annual Tripartite Consultations (ATC) on Resettlement last year and a goal was set to use it to refer five groups in the following year. An update at June’s ATC in Geneva on the pilot phase of using the methodology was well received by resettlement countries and NGOs, Coven said.
Describing it as a field tool to help UNHCR officials identify groups for resettlement, Coven said group methodology was essentially a profiling questionnaire which helps determine if there is sufficient commonality in a population and assists in thinking through the needs of that population in terms of resettlement criteria.
Basically, “it is a method for talking about and analyzing populations, for keeping a record of discussions, and for making the process transparent,” she said.
Group methodology seems to be gaining traction, Coven said. She noted that PRM, DHS, and NGOs participated in two missions to Africa where the methodology was piloted. “We have many requests for missions,” she added. Though she stressed that group methodology must not undermine referrals of individuals at risk, “it is the wave of the future.”
A/S Dewey Notes Challenges, Changes In Post-9/11 U.S. Admissions Program
Travels to Georgia, Florida to Address National Conventions of LIRS, SCORR
PRM Assistant Secretary Arthur E. Dewey has been reaching out to the field in the last month to discuss the challenges and changes in the U.S. admissions program. In June, he attended the Resettlement Network Conference of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) in Atlanta. And earlier this month he attended the annual conference of the State Coordinators of Refugee Resettlement (SCORR) in Coral Gables, Florida.
To both groups he had a similar message: Despite a tougher environment, the U.S. remains committed to a robust and generous program of admitting refugees for whom resettlement is the appropriate durable solution. He noted that the State Department is on track to meet its authorized goal of 50,000 admissions this fiscal year from the various regions of the world and is seeking qualified cases beyond the regional allocations.
Assistant Secretary Dewey described what he called the two major earth shifts that have changed the composition and complexity of the program: the end of the Cold War and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. From processing hundreds of thousands of refugees in two places -- the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia -- we must now work hard, he said, to admit a few thousand from some 60 locations around the world. And we must deal with a more stringent security environment. Processing is much more labor-intensive and the costs per refugee have almost doubled in the last two years.
But after a fall-off in 2002 and 2003, refugee admission numbers are returning to pre-9/11 totals, Mr. Dewey said. He credited an interagency transformation of the admissions process. Some of the elements are:
-- streamlinining of security procedures
-- an intensive effort to augment the ability of UNHCR and NGOs to identify and refer refugees in need of resettlement
-- working with UNHCR, host governments, and U.S. diplomatic missions to explore potential groups for processing, especially those in protracted refugee situations.
Assistant Secretary Dewey said that refugee stories overwhelmingly turn out to be success stories -- for the refugees, for the states and communities where they settle, and for the United States as a whole.
Making Refugees Feel at Home
“America is a nation that millions of refugees have come to call home,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said during an observance of World Refugee Day at the National Geographic Society in Washington, June 16. “The plight of refugees stirs the hearts of all Americans,” he said. First Lady Laura Bush, in a videotaped message, said “The United States is committed, through its leadership role in refugee assistance and protection, to making it possible for refugees to feel at home—not only in the United States, but also in the camps and settlements around the world to which they have fled.”
Martin Report Assessing U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Is Now Available
Last year, PRM asked David Martin, Warner-Booker Distinguished Professor of International Law at the University of Virginia, to make an independent, comprehensive study of the U.S. Refugee Program to assess its strengths and weaknesses and recommend improvements.
Dr. Martin has just submitted his final report: “The United States Refugee Admissions Program: Reforms for a New Era of Refugee Resettlement.” PRM is in the process of evaluating it and will soon begin discussions with interested parties—both inside and outside government—as to which recommendations will be adopted. Those discussions, and changes in the admissions program that may result from them, will be the subject of a future article in this newsletter.
Assistant Secretary Arthur E. Dewey said he strongly endorses many of Dr. Martin’s principal conclusions. One in particular that he highlighted was the need for a system that does not make it too hard to say “yes” when opportunities to resettle new groups of refugees arise.
Dr. Martin’s report will soon be posted on the PRM website: www.state.gov/g/prm.
FY 2003/2004 Admissions Statistics