UN agencies decry suspension of refugee programme by US president

UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UNICEF said over 800 refugees were set to make America their new home this week alone.

United Nations chief António Guterres shakes hands with new US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the United Nations in New York, on January 27, 2017

In separate statements, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said over 800 refugees were set to make America their new home this week alone, but instead were barred from travelling to Washington.

“UNHCR estimates that 20,000 refugees in precarious circumstances might have been resettled to the U.S. during the 120 days covered by the suspension announced Friday, based on average monthly figures for the last 15 years,’’ UNHCR said.

“Refugees are anxious, confused and heartbroken at this suspension in what is already a lengthy process,’’ it added in a statement received in Nairobi.

Somali refugees in Kenya are among those affected and who were scheduled to travel to America to start new lives under a longstanding resettlement programme after waiting for more than ten years.

The statement follows Trump’s signing on Jan. 27 of an Executive Order that, among things, suspends the U.S. refugee programme for 120 days.

According to the media, bars entry of refugees from several mostly Muslim countries, including Syria, until further notice.

UNICEF said child refugees might also be affected by the new U.S policy.

“The needs of refugees have never been greater."

“Worldwide 28 million children have been uprooted by conflict, driven from their homes by violence and terror, they need our help,’’ UNICEF said in the statement.

The UN agency said Washington has a long and proud tradition of protecting children fleeing war and persecution.

“We trust that this support will continue and that the recent measures will prove to be temporary, all refugee children need our support,’’ it said.

UNICEF said it is committed to continuing its work with governments and other partners around the world to help some of the most vulnerable children everywhere, from Syria to Yemen to South Sudan.

Trump’s executive order prevented people with passports from three African nations; Libya, Somalia and Sudan from travelling to the U. S.

It also blocked visas for citizens from four Middle Eastern countries; Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran.

UNHCR stressed its position that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.

“Those accepted for resettlement by the U.S. are, after a rigorous U.S. security screening process, coming to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity."

“UNHCR hopes that they will be able to do so as soon as possible,’’ the release added.

The UN refugee agency said that for decades, Washington has been a global leader in refugee protection, a tradition rooted in the tolerance and generosity of the American people.

UNHCR expressed the hope that the country will continue its strong leadership role and its long history of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.

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