'Immigrants and Refugees Welcome' signage outside Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia on July 27, 2019.
  • The United States resettled 1,530 refugees in June.
  • US President Joe Biden has set a goal of resettling as many as 62,500 refugees by this autumn.
  • For contrast, in 1980, the US resettled more than 200,000 refugees.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

More refugees were resettled in the United States last month than at any other point in the current fiscal year, a sign US President Joe Biden and his administration are rebuilding a program that was decimated by the previous administration.

In June, according to new data from the US State Department, 1,530 refugees were provided new homes within the country, more than the previous three months combined. It is also the highest number since September 2020, and the second-highest total since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

That comes after refugee admissions tripled in May, to 915, after resettlements had nearly ground to a halt. Just one refugee was resettled in October 2020, the start of the current fiscal year - and until Biden issued a new order in April this year, none were allowed to come from Syria and other countries subject to the last White House's ban on travel from several Muslim-majority nations.

The Biden administration has a stated goal of resettling as many as 62,500 refugees by the end of September. It is, however, extremely unlikely to reach that: just 4,780 people have been resettled thus far.

But officials at refugee resettlement agencies said the White House is indeed working behind the scenes to rebuild the capacity to provide new homes, in the next fiscal year, to as many as 125,000 people fleeing war and repression.

In a break with past administrations, the US government is now providing funds up front to resettlement agencies so they can rebuild their capacity. Many of those agencies closed offices during the Trump administration, which had consistently slashed the number of people who could be admitted to the US.

The last White House had set a cap of just 15,000 resettlements, an historic low. By contrast, more than 200,000 refugees were admitted in 1980, when the modern resettlement programme began.

The bottleneck, according to experts, is the application process for resettlement candidates. Not only do such candidates need to first be identified by US officials, but they need to submit to multiple interviews and background checks abroad, a process that takes several months, at a minimum.

Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilisation and advocacy at the resettlement agency World Relief, said the 1,530 refugees admitted last month "is still far, far below the historic norms." But, he said, "it does represent a significant increase over the past several months, and we celebrate this progress."

"The Biden administration will need to continue to prioritise re-building the pipeline for refugee resettlement that starts with overseas processing," he added.


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