The United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi praised US president Joe Biden’s pledge to raise the cap on the number of refugees from a 40-year-low under his predecessor Donald Trump, saying the move would save lives and send a powerful signal to the world.
“The action today by President Biden will save lives. It’s that simple,” Grandi said in a statement.
The statement came after Biden announced in Washington his intention to raise the ceiling on the number of refugees allowed to enter the US to 125,000 in the 12-month period starting 1 Oct. Biden's planned cap on refugees admitted to the US compares with just 15,000 for the current fiscal year - the lowest level since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980.
“It also shows that strength is rooted in compassion. It signals that the United States will do its part, as it has historically done, to help the world’s most vulnerable people, including by welcoming them in the US,” Grandi stated.
Biden’s announcement signalled a reversal of four consecutive years of reductions as Trump whittled down the US refugee resettlement programme from 110,000 for the fiscal year set by President Barack Obama.
“We applaud the restoration of the US resettlement program,” Grandi said. “Despite the challenges of the (Coronavirus) pandemic, we remind countries of the life-threatening circumstances that refugees face and encourage them to continue to expand their resettlement programs.”
As recently as last week, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned that the world had resettled the lowest number of refugees in nearly two decades despite record levels of forced displacement. This was in large measure due to the impact of COVID-19.
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that of the 20.4 million refugees under its mandate, 1.4 million are in situations that make them extremely vulerable and are in urgent need of resettlement.
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