It’s been all over the news in recent months: how refugees from Central America face near-certain death if they can’t obtain asylum in America.
Most recently, the United Nations refugee agency tweeted that resettlement is a “lifeline” for them.
But it’s generally not true, according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies, an independent, non-partisan foundation.
The report by Nayla Rush notes the U.N. has been claiming the need for a “lifeline” for refugees requiring immediate medical care or facing the immediate threat of violence and torture.
But the report found differently.
“According to recent data from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), almost all refugees submitted for resettlement in 2017 (75,200 in total) were in ‘normal’ circumstances ‘where there are no immediate medical, social, or security concerns which would merit expedited processing,” the report said.
The U.N’s own figures reveal that during 2017, only 1.1 percent of the resettlement cases involved an emergency, and 6.4 percent were “urgent,” which means 92.5 percent were normal priority levels, the report said.
The global body classifies 2017 resettlement submissions by categories. Survivors of violence and/or torture comprise 27.4 percent, children and adolescents at risk 9.9 percent, women and girls at risk 7.3 percent and refugees with medical needs: 3.5 percent.
“These categories add up to less than half (48.1 percent) the total number of refugees UNHCR referred for resettlement. Hence, UNHCR’s claim that ‘[a]ll refugees referred for resettlement must fit at least one vulnerability category’ is not a fair depiction of reality, unless every refugee, according to them, is deemed ‘vulnerable.’ If that were the case, shouldn’t every single one be given the opportunity to be resettled?”
The report pointed out that among other issues, the definitions are “broad.”
For example, UNHCR says violence is described as “an extremely diffuse and complex phenomenon, and defining it is not an exact science.”
“Notions of what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of behavior and what constitutes harm, are culturally influenced and constantly under review as values and social norms evolve. ”
Sometimes being exposed to violence “indirectly” is a reason for resettlement, the U.N. contends.
“The U.N. refugee agency and other refugee advocates capitalize on emotional appeals … to convince the American public that the resettlement program is designed to save the lives of the ‘most vulnerable’ refugees,” Rush’s report continued.
“But … refugees with no specific vulnerabilities or urgent needs are being resettled in the U.S. Most were not in danger in their country of first asylum. Many were undoubtedly suffering from unemployment, destitution, and despair – but so are thousands, perhaps millions, of their compatriots stuck in neighboring countries,” the report said.