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U.S. Department of State
95/08/01 Testimony: Acting Secretary Tarnoff on Refugee Admissions
Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration

                                  Peter Tarnoff
                            Acting Secretary of State

                  FY 1996 Refugee Admissions Consultations
                                  Before the
                    Senate Committee on the Judiciary
                                August 1, 1995

I appreciate this opportunity to reaffirm the President's deep 
commitment to the United States refugee program as well as to outline 
for the Committee and to present to you the President's specific 
proposal for the Fiscal Year 1996 refugee admissions program.

Perhaps more than at any time since 1980 - when the Refugee Act was 
enacted - the question of to whom and in what numbers this country 
should offer permanent resettlement is generating considerable national 
interest.  There are, no doubt, many reasons for the renewal of this 
debate, but the changed circumstances of global migration in the post-
Cold War period and its impact on the United States is one of the most 
significant.  We are not alone.  Many other countries are wrestling with 
the same issues.  But it is clear that we, the United States, must 
provide the necessary leadership within the international community to 
ensure that refugee resettlement remains available to those for whom 
there is no other viable alternative.

Refugee resettlement embodies who we are and what we stand for as a 
nation.  Throughout our history, flight from tyranny has caused millions 
of people to seek refuge in our land of freedom.  In a decade dominated 
by ethnic tensions, ethnic cleansing, and ethnically-inspired violence 
and killing, it is essential that America remain an example of tolerance 
and compassion.  Given the numerous volatile situations in the world 
today, we believe that the United States must retain maximum flexibility 
to offer resettlement opportunities, when needed, and to be in a 
position to encourage other countries to accept their international 
responsibilities.  It is for this reason that we oppose any legislated 
numerical cap on annual refugee admissions.

Having said this, let me emphasize that we concur that the use of 
resettlement as a durable solution should evolve to match changing 
requirements.  Since the end of World War II, refugees resettled in the 
United States have - in the main - been persons fleeing communism.  In 
most cases, communism became synonymous with persecution.  While we 
continue to admit members of certain groups to whom commitments were 
made before the demise of most communist states, we are in a period of 
transition which is resulting in adjustments of worldwide admissions 
numbers overtime.

We will also use our position to ensure that resettlement needs are 
viewed as a shared international responsibility.  Recognizing the 
changed circumstances in the world, the Administration with our NGO 
partners has begun to revise criteria for the United States refugee 
admissions program.

This fiscal year, new priorities were established to determine who among 
the world's refugees would be given primary consideration for United 
States resettlement.  Without sacrificing our ability to act 
unilaterally, these new priorities allow for far greater coordination 
with the efforts of the international community and other resettlement 
countries.  Working with the Office of the United Nations High 
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), we are moving away from a Cold War 
framework and toward a system with greater emphasis on refugees 
recognized as having both a well-founded fear of persecution and a need 
for third-country resettlement.  Where necessary, refugee admissions 
resources can be used as an instrument to ensure the preservation of the 
practice of first asylum.

Turning to the specifics of the admissions program for Fiscal Year 1996, 
a copy of which I believe the committee has received, the President 
proposes an overall refugee admissions ceiling of 90,000.  This 
represents an 18% decrease from the current fiscal year ceiling of 

Much of the reduction will result from a decline in the need for 
admissions numbers in the East Asia region.  The 25,000 numbers proposed 
for this region will allow us to resettle the last group of Vietnamese 
re-education camp prisoners and Highlanders from Laos, to whom we have 
firm commitments, as well as a small number of non-Indochinese refugees.  
In addition, in an effort to accelerate voluntary repatriation from 
first asylum camps in Southeast Asia and ensure the successful 
conclusion of the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA), we are discussing 
with our CPA partners, a proposal to provide opportunities for 
resettlement interviews upon return to Vietnam to those Vietnamese now 
in camps who agree to return to their homes voluntarily.  The exact 
details of this proposal would be determined, in part, as a result of 
consultations with those governments whose cooperation would be required 
for its successful implementation.

In the former Soviet Union, religious minorities with close family ties 
in the United States will continue to receive significant refugee 
admissions slots under the European ceiling of 45,000.  Unfortunately, 
the situation of Bosnian refugees not only continues unresolved in many 
locations but may even be deteriorating.  We are working closely with 
UNHCR and, in FY 1996, we will admit at least 15,000 Bosnians -- almost 
double the number expected to arrive during FY 1995.  We will continue 
to monitor events in Bosnia, and will be prepared to consult with 
Congress if further adjustments appear necessary.

In Africa, we have embarked on a new approach to refugee processing to 
ensure we take in those people truly in need of resettlement.  This 
effort involves not only the USG and USG-funded non-governmental 
organizations, but also many UNHCR offices whose primary focus is on 
basic humanitarian assistance.  Travelling teams of voluntary agency and 
Immigration and Naturalization Service staff members this year will 
interview African refugees in more than double the number of first-
asylum countries traditionally visited for this purpose.  To their 
credit, most African countries honor first asylum and refugee protection 
obligations.  With the financial assistance of the international 
community, many diverse groups of African refugees - Mozambicans in 
Malawi, Ethiopians in the Sudan, Somalis in Kenya - have been allowed to 
remain in neighboring countries until repatriation was possible.   
Third-country resettlement opportunities, therefore, are needed for 
relatively few cases in each of these locations.  The President's 
proposed 7,000 African admissions will be available for Sudanese, 
Somalis, Zairians, Liberians, and numerous other nationalities.

The U.S./Cuban Migration agreement calls for the safe, orderly, and 
legal admission of 20,000 Cubans annually.  One component of this effort 
involves the admission of persons approved in our in-country refugee 
admissions program.  Individuals who have been jailed or harassed for 
their political or religious beliefs or activities are examples of those 
included in this program.  Given the prevalence of democratically-
elected governments in this hemisphere, Cubans are the only nationality 
designated for refugee processing and 6,000 numbers are recommended for 
their use.

For the Near East/South Asia region we are proposing 4,000 numbers for 
FY 96.  Resettlement in the U.S. for refugees from this region is 
closely coordinated with UNHCR.  Many referrals for United States 
resettlement are persons who fled Iraq but cannot remain in first asylum 
countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey or Syria.  Religious 
minorities from Iran - particularly Baha'is and Jews - also require 
third-country resettlement.  As in the Africa program, we are working  
closely with UNHCR to bring United States processing to those who are 
most in need.  In the coming fiscal year we will interview refugees in 
regional capitals that had been rarely, if ever, visited by our 
processing teams.

Given the unpredictability of world events, the President's proposal 
includes a reserve of 3,000 numbers which are not assigned to any 
region.  As situations develop during the year, additional numbers for 
existing programs or numbers for new refugee groups may be required.  
The availability of an unallocated reserve allows the program the 
flexibility necessary to operate effectively in this constantly changing 

By current UNHCR estimates, there are some 20 million refugees in the 
world and an even greater number of persons displaced within the borders 
of their own countries.  In addition, millions of migrant workers and 
asylum-seekers are on the move around the globe.  In the face of these 
growing numbers, the international community now rarely views large-
scale permanent resettlement as an appropriate or manageable solution 
for refugee crises.  As with the Kurds on the Turkish border after the 
Gulf War, or Rwandans fleeing the massacres of last year, the first 
concern for refugees is protection and assistance in place, followed by 
the hope of eventual voluntary repatriation.

The vast majority of the millions of refugees worldwide will never be 
resettled anywhere but, rather, will remain in first asylum under the 
care of the international community until they can return home in safety 
and dignity.  It is to these vital programs that some $430 million 
dollars of Department of State funds are devoted in the current fiscal 
year.  We believe the U.S. commitment to generous levels of overseas 
assistance represents money very well spent.

In recent years, United States leadership - be it in the form of 
financial resources, food aid, diplomatic intervention or the unique 
assets of the U.S. military - has made the difference between 
catastrophe and the preservation of human life.  As the UN High 
Commissioner for Refugees recently told me, in today's world, there 
simply is no substitute for U.S. leadership.  This view is shared as 
well by the American people who, through their elected representatives, 
have continued to demonstrate their support for these programs.

There are many examples.  The ethnic tensions in Central Africa that led 
to genocide in Rwanda last year and still threaten to plunge Burundi 
into bloodshed and chaos elicited an outpouring of American concern and 
resources despite the limited United States strategic interests in that 
part of the world.  Since April of 1994, the U.S. Government has 
provided over $500 million in emergency relief for refugees, the 
internally displaced, and other conflict victims in this region.  When 
nearly a million Rwandans arrived in the Goma area of Zaire within a 
matter of days, the UNHCR reached the outer limits of what it could 
implement even on an emergency basis, and appealed to governments to 
provide services directly to the refugees.  United States leadership was 
instrumental in mobilizing resources and contributions from other 
nations.  Our response was possible because of the military's 
capabilities and our political will to use them in such unique 

Rwanda illustrates another aspect of this country's contribution to 
handling humanitarian crises - that of the private sector.  The 
community of non-governmental organizations or "NGOs" reported an 
unprecedented fundraising response from the American people to the 
Rwandan tragedy; and many American and other voluntary agencies provided 
life-saving work throughout the region.  The NGO community has also 
stepped forward to devise community-based conflict prevention programs.  
These are a necessary complement to the government's effort on the 
diplomatic and political front in saving Burundi from a similar 

The relief activities of American NGOs have also made a substantial 
difference in alleviating suffering in the ongoing tragedy of Bosnia.  
Since 1992, NGOs have assisted the millions of people uprooted in this 
agonizing ethnic conflict.  Often without regard to their own personal 
security, they have ensured the provision of food and shelter to victims 
of ethnic cleansing and violence both within and outside of Bosnia's 
borders.  They have also provided life-sustaining medical treatment, 
medicines, and medical supplies to Bosnian refugees and displaced 
persons throughout the region.

Mr. Chairman, the people of the United States continue to demonstrate an 
enormous capacity and willingness to reach out to those in need - both 
at home and abroad.  Americans want to be part of the solution.  In 
recent years it has been made abundantly clear that the United States 
retains the will, creativity, and willingness to "take charge" when 
necessary in assisting the victims of natural or manmade disasters.  In 
addition, our track record as a multi-cultural society - even in light 
of the current debate on appropriate levels of new immigration - is 
excellent and can serve as a positive example to other nations.  The 
President's proposal for the admission of 90,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 
1996 reflects his intention to maintain America's leadership while at 
the same time recognizing that changed circumstances demand new and 
flexible approaches.

I will be happy to respond to your questions.

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