LIRS Statement on Resettlement Flight Suspension

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LIRS Statement on Resettlement Flight suspension

For Immediate Release: March 17, 2020

Contact: Timothy Young | tyoung@lirs.org | 443-257-310

Washington D.C. – Today the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) took the significant step of suspending refugee resettlement flight departures as a result of concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“While we understand the challenges of responding to a global pandemic, we are deeply saddened that on the very day we mark the 40th anniversary of the landmark Refugee Act of 1980, the United Nations has suspended refugee flight departures.  We pray that this action does not keep refugee children and families in harm’s way at this difficult time,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

According to the agencies, the suspension will take effect within the next few days as IOM and UNHCR attempt to bring refugees who have already cleared all formalities to their intended destinations. It remains unclear when resettlement flights may once again resume.

In addition to concerns around conditions abroad, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has also noted the challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak here in the United States.

“Many newly-resettled refugees face the same extraordinary circumstances as other vulnerable Americans. We are concerned by a lack of jobs in the industries where refugees often gain initial employment. Refugee children will be unable to enroll in and benefit from schooling in the near-term. State agencies offering vital integration services may be closed, while the volunteers who do this work of welcome may be forced to shelter in place,” concluded Vignarajah. “This is a dire scenario for Americans, including new Americans, the likes of which we may never have seen before.”

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