Released by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
July 18, 2003
U.S. Government to Expedite Refugee Processing Since September 11, 2001
The attacks of September 11, 2001 had a major impact on the FY 2002 and 2003 refugee admissions programs. Since then, U.S. Government (USG) efforts have focused on responding to new security features and on strengthening the program to expand our ability to speedily identify and admit refugees for whom resettlement is the preferred durable solution.
Following the attacks of September 11, the USG conducted a thorough security review of refugee admissions processing. The review developed new security procedures for the processing and admission of refugees. These procedures were designed to ensure the protection of the American public and the integrity of the admissions program. The retroactive implementation of some of the new security steps sharply constrained movements.
In addition, initial overseas security concerns severely limited Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) adjudications in the field. INS (now Department of Homeland Security/Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services DHS/CIS) interviews overseas resumed in force in February 2002, but then were constrained again by security threats in East Africa, civil unrest in West Africa, and the war in Iraq. To meet these new security challenges, the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) formed an interagency task force involving personnel of the Departments of State, Justice, Health and Human Services and the National Security Council. The goal of the Task Force was to overcome obstacles to maximizing refugee admissions in FY 2002 and to develop an expanded pipeline of cases of persons or groups for future years within the context of the new security environment. We have intensified these efforts in FY 2003 through regular meetings with the DHS/CIS.
FY 2002 Actions Taken by PRM and INS
- INS identified, trained, and scheduled 60 new refugee adjudicators to augment their ability to conduct interviews overseas and determine eligibility for resettlement.
- PRM funded the hiring of over 200 additional overseas non-governmental (NGO) and international organization staff and leased additional space overseas to complete out-processing of FY 2001 cases and prepare thousands of backlogged cases for INS interviews in FY 2002.
- In response to the need to expedite already delayed refugee travel, PRM provided additional funding to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to hire additional staff to manage increasingly complex travel arrangements of refugees to the U.S. and to implement new requirements to photograph all refugees and confirm their identity at points of embarkation.
- INS increased staffing and authorized overtime to expedite its Refugee Access Verification Unit (RAVU) review of documentation in 17,000 family reunification cases.
- PRM funded the relocation overseas of some 20,000 refugees in the hope of permitting INS interviews to take place in a secure environment (over 12,000 Somali Bantu from Dadaab to Kakuma camp in Kenya and some 7,000 Liberians from Danane to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.)
- PRM detailed staff to INS and DOS’ Bureau of Consular Affairs to facilitate the RAVU and SAO processes.
- INS hired contractors to expedite fingerprinting of refugees at Ports of Entry (POEs) and installed many new live-scan fingerprint machines.
- INS and PRM deployed live-scan fingerprinting equipment at high volume refugee processing posts (Nairobi, Moscow and Vienna) to further reduce delays at POEs.
- INS authorized three additional POEs to process and inspect arriving refugees.
- PRM provided funding to maintain NGO resettlement network capacity within the United States during the period of reduced and uncertain refugee admissions.
- INS authorized refugee processing for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and special immigrants if they otherwise qualify for the U.S. Refugee Program (USRP).
- PRM established working groups with the Voluntary Agency community to tackle a number of issues, including identification of vulnerable populations in need of resettlement and fraud in the family reunion program.
Ongoing PRM Efforts in FY 2003
- PRM conducted a first NGO referral workshop in Nairobi to systematically train refugee assistance agencies on how to refer vulnerable refugees to the USRP. While this may not dramatically increase the numbers of persons identified for resettlement, it provides another means of access to particularly vulnerable refugees in East Africa. This is a pilot program, which will be evaluated after six months for possible expansion to other locations.
- PRM has funded a major UNHCR resettlement initiative to increase its resettlement capacity in Africa and Latin America. With an initial tranche of $4 million in new funding, UNHCR has hired 18 resettlement officers in Africa and Latin America. Future funding will be tied to performance and referral submissions.
- PRM is also actively engaging UNHCR on the implementation of a refugee registration system globally -- needed to identify resettlement populations and safeguard assistance resources.
- PRM has assumed operational responsibility for many namecheck and Security Advisory Opinion functions from the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. This has resulted in increased refugee admissions this year.
- Over the past year, PRM staff has traveled overseas in order to identify groups of refugees who may be in need of resettlement, including:
Following a recent intensive off-site review of the program, PRM, DHS/BCIS, and HHS have identified a number of further initiatives we will advance in the coming year. These include:
- Engaging interested members of the public through regular meetings to identify additional resettlement needs worldwide;
- Expanding the nationalities eligible for refugee interviews based on close family relationships in the US;
- In coordination with UNHCR, addressing the special needs of Unaccompanied Refugee Children, including resettlement;
- Standardizing and improving refugee case processing efficiencies by completing implementation of the Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System (WRAPS) and issuing a case processing manual;
- Supporting a comprehensive study of the Refugee Admissions Program by a well-known academic expert in the field of refugee and immigration law and policy;
- In coordination with UNHCR, developing solutions -- including resettlement -- to the problem of refugees living in protracted situations in both urban and refugee camp environments;
- Developing a non-governmental response capacity by identifying experienced professionals with knowledge of humanitarian relief and resettlement policy and practice whose assistance would be available in emergency situations and/or for strategic planning; and
- Providing expanded information to local health authorities on health-related issues of incoming populations such as the Somali Bantu.