A refugee family from Syria pictured at their home.

A refugee family from Syria pictured at their home, in May 2016. They were previously resettled to the United States from Jordan. © UNHCR/Tone Stockenstrom

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, praised President Joe Biden’s plan announced today to raise the cap on the number of refugees who could be admitted to the United States, saying it would send a powerful signal to other countries to continue to do the same.

“The action today by President Biden will save lives. It’s that simple,” Grandi said after Biden announced in Washington his intention to raise the ceiling starting this year on the number of refugees who can be admitted for resettlement in the United States.

“It also shows that strength is rooted in compassion. It signals that the United States will do its part, as it has historically done, to help the world’s most vulnerable people, including by welcoming them in the United States.”

Biden’s announcement signaled a reversal of four consecutive years of reductions in U.S. admissions.

Only last week UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warned that the world had resettled the lowest number of refugees in nearly two decades despite record levels of forced displacement. This was in large measure due to the impact of COVID-19.

“We applaud the restoration of the US resettlement program,” Grandi said. “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we remind countries of the life-threatening circumstances that refugees face and encourage them to continue to expand their resettlement programs.”

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that of the 20.4 million refugees under its mandate, 1.4 million remain in situations of extreme vulnerability and are in urgent need of resettlement.

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Originally published by UNHCR on 4 February 2021.

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