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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Refugee Admissions Program for East Asia

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
February 6, 2009



Since 1975, more than 1.3 million refugees from Asia have been resettled in the United States, either from first asylum countries or through in-country processing. More than 900,000 were Vietnamese, but the U.S. has also resettled significant numbers of Highland and Lowland Lao and Khmer.

While the U.S. continues to resettle eligible Vietnamese and Lao refugees in small numbers, processing of refugees from Burma has increased dramatically in recent years. In Thailand, more than 145,000 refugees from Burma, mostly ethnic minorities, are recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and live in nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. In addition, there are some 43,000 persons of concern, mostly Burmese, registered with UNHCR in Malaysia. As Thailand and Malaysia have agreed to significant third country resettlement for these refugees, the U.S. is working closely with UNHCR, non-governmental organizations and regional governments to facilitate this process.

An Overseas Processing Entity (OPE) (now called “Resettlement Support Center (RSC)”) in Bangkok prepares refugee cases throughout the region (except for Vietnam) for adjudication by the Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS) and coordinates post-adjudication processing and cultural orientation. Transportation to the U.S. is arranged by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In Vietnam, case preparation and post-adjudication processing is coordinated by the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.

The U.S. remains concerned about the plight of North Korean refugees. The North Korean Human Rights Act calls on the Administration to facilitate the submission of applications of North Koreans seeking protection as refugees. Since 2006, the U.S. government has worked closely with UNHCR, governments in the region, and NGOs to offer U.S. resettlement interviews to North Koreans whenever possible and appropriate.

FY 2009 Admissions Program

The FY 2009 ceiling for refugee arrivals from East Asia is 19,000. The U.S. expects to admit up to 18,000 ethnic minority refugees from Burma living in Malaysia and Thailand, including over 10,000 refugees from Burma living in camps along the Thai/Burma border.

The Humanitarian Resettlement (HR) Initiative in Vietnam stopped accepting applications through June 25, 2008 from Vietnamese citizens who might have been eligible under three categories of the former Orderly Departure Program (ODP). This program is limited to those Vietnamese who were eligible for an ODP program but who, through no fault of their own, were unable to apply or who were unable to complete the application process before the Orderly Departure Program (ODP) closed on September 30, 1994. The U.S. anticipates resettling about 1,000 individuals via the HR Initiative and some 100 individuals as P3 beneficiaries. It is expected that HR processing will be largely completed by September 30, 2009.

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