Getting our facts straight: numbers of refugees admitted to the US each year

A commenter at this post about Canada said that we only ever admit 28,000 refugees a year even though the annual ceiling in the last few years has been about 70,000.   I don’t know what the final number was for 2007, but it was over 50,000 for sure.

The President sets that annual ceiling each year in consultation with Congress in a document appropriately called The Presidential Determination.  You can see the FY 2008 Determination here.     President Bush set the ceiling at 80,000.    Ceiling means that that is the top number of refugees we would take barring any unforeseen huge emergency.   

The Volags (voluntary agencies), funded to resettle refugees, would like to see that number become a goal instead of a ceiling and we should look to continued lobbying pressure to bring about that change.  They are paid by the head to resettle refugees so if the numbers drop as they did in 2002 and 2003 (due to concerns about terrorism in the wake of 9/11) the volags might have to lay off employees.   They got real lucky in those years when the federal government paid them anyway in order to keep their doors open.

For a history of the annual ceiling and the actual admissions for each year from 1983-2005 go here.  You will see in a number of years we got very close to the actual ceiling, despite our reader’s allegation that we only take 28,000 a year.

Hoping to make things easy for those of you trying to understand how Refugee Resettlement works, this post is filed in our category called “where to find information.”   


Few Iraqi refugees plan to return — but what does that mean?

A survey conducted for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that only 4 percent of Iraqi refugees in Syria have plans to return to their country, an AP article reports.

Nearly 90 percent have no plans to return, while the remaining 6 percent don’t know, said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Most of those who plan to stay away — 61 percent — said they are under direct threat in Iraq. Others said the general insecurity in the country is the reason they want to remain abroad, she said.

Most of the Iraqis interviewed left Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Of those, the majority have left since 2006, when sectarian violence became worse.

 Last November we were hearing about refugees returning — we posted on it here, here and here (or click on the category “Iraqi refugees” in the list in the left-hand column). The government was encouraging their return and giving them some money to resettle. Then there was a slowdown in December, for reasons that are unclear.

In February Angelina Jolie visited Iraqi refugees in the Middle East and reported:

The Iraqi families I’ve met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don’t want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes — or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives.

This is what we’ve heard again and again. So how did this survey come up with only four percent planning to return? Or is the question misleading? Perhaps they asked families about definite plans to return, not whether they ever plan to return. This might be a clue:

The survey, conducted March 2-18 for UNHCR by the IPSOS market research organization, found that many of the refugees are in touch with others who have returned and reported back that conditions were unsatisfactory, Pagonis said. More than a third have visited Iraq themselves once or twice in the past year.

It sounds as if the refugees are monitoring the situation in Iraq, either through people they know or through going back themselves for a visit.  And they are probably waiting for conditions to be right for their return. It would have been more useful for the survey to ask what it would take for them to go home. Oh well, whatever serves their anti-American agenda.