UN Refugee Chief Encouraged by Changes in US Resettlement Program

By VOA News *

Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, speaks during a joint statement with President Ivan Duque in Bogota, Colombia, Feb. 8, 2021.

WASHINGTON – U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says the asylum system in the United States has become “unmanageable” and that his agency supports “a gradual improvement towards a more effective and humane migration system.”

In an interview with VOA, Grandi said such reform is a complex operation that will take years to achieve, but that he is encouraged by what he has seen from the Biden administration after a big cut in resettlements during the Trump administration.

“We support that because that is the indispensable piece in a broader exercise to handle human mobility in Central America, which includes the movement of people that are refugees because they flee from violence, from persecution, from discrimination,” he said. “That work has to be done at every level, has to be done in the countries of origin — mostly Honduras, El Salvador, to an extent Guatemala — has to be done in the countries of transit, including Guatemala itself and Mexico, and has to be done at the border.”

The maximum number of refugees allowed into the United States fell from 85,000 in 2016 to 18,000 in 2020. The Biden administration has boosted the cap to 62,500 refugee admissions this year, with plans to boost it further to 125,000.

Grandi said in addition to the decline in U.S. capacity, the coronavirus pandemic also helped to drastically affect refugee resettlement throughout the world during 2020. He said the total number of resettlements fell from about 100,000 in 2019 to 34,000 last year.

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