The UN's Role in U.S. Refugee Resettlement

Article subtitle: 
A benefit of the doubt screening policy
Article publisher: 
Center for Immigration Studies
Article date: 
11 January 2016
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

The recent terrorism-related arrests of two refugees from the Middle East again showed the national security risks associated with the present refugee screening process. A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies analyzes this refugee resettlement screening process and the large role played by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the entity entrusted with the entire pre-screening process for Syrian refugees being considered for resettlement in the United States.
The UNHCR screens refugees and then presents the U.S. with potential resettlement cases; 22,427 Syrian refugee cases have been submitted. The selecting, pre-screening, and referring refugees for resettlement, as well as the humanitarian care of the well over four million Syrian refugees, has been accomplished with what amounts to one staff member for 2, 862 refugees. The selection process uses the following guidelines: "The mere absence of information, or one's inability to find information that supports an applicant's claim, should not in itself justify a negative eligibility decision." The only requirement for applicants' statements is that they "must be coherent and plausible, and must not run counter to generally known facts."
Nayla Rush, a senior researcher at the Center and author of the report, said, "The majority of Americans are fearful of increasing the number of refugees from countries with terrorist networks entering the U.S. But Americans would be even more concerned about safety and national security if they knew it is the UNCHR which is, in a large part, deciding not only who can move to the U.S., but in doing so also selecting those who will have the opportunity to become American citizens and later sponsor family members."

The Syrian refugees likely benefitted from a "group determination" of refugee status, with the UNCHR's general assessment of the situation – as opposed to specific material facts – determining status. But in selecting the specific refugees to resettle in the U.S., UNCHR employees, overwhelmingly hired from within the region, make the initial selection. Refugee resettlement selection is a valuable commodity, which makes the process a target for abuse. Mistakes and fraud happen, and the U.S. knows very little about those who are in decision-making positions.

View the entire paper.


CAIRCO research

Refugee resettlement racket

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