Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
March 1, 2001
Near East/South Asia Admissions Program
Since 1980, more than 122,000 refugees from Near East and South Asian countries have been offered resettlement in the U.S. Most have been Iranian (approximately 52,000), Iraqi (34,000) or Afghan (29,000). The majority of refugees currently identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as in need of third country resettlement are Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians, mostly members of religious and ethnic minorities who have sought temporary asylum in other countries in the region. INS conducts regular interviewing visits to Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, and interviews from permanent offices in India and Pakistan. The State Department and INS also coordinated refugee processing visits to Kuwait, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Yemen in FY 2000. About 400 Afghans were also interviewed and approved for U.S. resettlement in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
More than 10,000 refugees from the region were admitted to the U.S. Resettlement Program in FY 2000 -- a 250% increase from FY 1999.
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 State Department and INS coordinated another U.S. resettlement visit to Rafha camp in June 2000 to process referrals of 200 Iraqi refugees not previously interviewed.
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.
Afghans: More than two million Afghan refugees have fled from civil war and Taliban oppression to neighboring Iran and Pakistan alone. Urban Afghan women who may have worked outside the home before the current regime took power and who have no immediate male family members have been identified by UNHCR as most in need of resettlement. The U.S. processed 360 UNHCR referrals of Afghans, predominantly women-at-risk cases (including family members) for the FY 2000 Resettlement Program. The U.S. is working with UNHCR to identify and refer an even greater number in FY 2001.
FY 2001 Admissions Program
The FY 2001 admissions ceiling for refugees from the Near East and South Asia is 10,000, which represents a 25% increase from the original FY 2000 level. The Department is working with UNHCR to identify a larger number of Afghan refugees requiring resettlement, especially women-at-risk. Continuing refugee processing visits to Central Asian and Caucasus countries will provide resettlement opportunities to an estimated 500 refugees from the region in FY 2001.