Flow of Refugees to U.S. Drying Up

February 10, 2003

The number of international refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. has slowed to a trickle, authorities report, as heightened security measures have cut off the flow in recent months. Refugee-support agencies and personnel have seen their funding cut along with demand for their services.

  • Screening for terrorists cut the number of refugees coming into the country to 27,000 last year, from 68,000 in 2001.
  • Under 4,000 arrived in the past four months.
  • The State Department -- which pays private social-service agencies for each refugee they assist -- has experienced a sharp drop in demands for payments.
  • In 2001, 10 agencies collected $59 million for their efforts -- a figure which slumped to $21 million in 2002.

The U.S. Catholic Conference told its resettlement staff to expect a 35 percent cut this year -- and Church World Service, an arm of the National Council of Churches, may close 2 of 40 refugee offices by July.

Persons granted asylum can get federal aid for a month if agencies drum up private aid to match.

Among the 12 million people designated as refugees by the United Nations, only a tiny fraction find their way to the West each year; of those, the U.S. takes half.

Source: Barry Newman, "Tightened U.S. Security Keeps Asylum Seekers at Bay," Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2003.

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