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Landmark Refugee Legislation Will Improve the Lives of the World’s Most Vulnerable People

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday’s introduction of the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) shows a great commitment by the United States to the world’s most vulnerable people fleeing persecution and torture, said Refugees International. The comprehensive piece of legislation commemorates the 30th anniversary of the historic Refugee Act of 1980 and addresses shortfalls in current law that make it unnecessarily difficult for asylum seekers to find safe harbor in the United States and for refugees to be fully protected. The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).

“The Refugee Protection Act will ensure that asylum seekers and refugees quickly receive U.S. protection while also making sure that they can live a dignified life here,” said Elizabeth Campbell, Senior Advocate for Refugees International. “This legislation brings the United States much closer to fulfilling its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

The Refugee Protection Act will require the referral of asylum seekers to an asylum officer for a credible fear interview, and if credible fear is found, for an asylum interview. It will ensure that refugees are not unfairly denied U.S. protection because of unnecessarily strict laws against people who have provided “material support” to armed groups, often by force. At the same time, it will reject those with legitimate ties to terrorist activity. The bill also seeks to prevent newly resettled refugees from slipping into poverty by adjusting the per capita refugee resettlement grant level annually for inflation and the cost of living.

The legislation will also enable individuals who are de jure stateless to obtain lawful status in the United States. De jure stateless persons are individuals who are not considered to be citizens under the laws of any country. Persons in such circumstances cannot be returned anywhere. It is estimated that there are 12 million stateless people around the world living in limbo with no citizenship or the ability to exercise their most basic rights.

Senators Leahy and Levin will speak about the legislation at a Refugees International event on March 17 at 10:00am in the Dirksen Senate Building in room G50 marking the 30-year anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980 and the seven-year anniversary of the Iraq war. Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will also be delivering remarks at this event.

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For Immediate Release: March 16, 2010
Contact: Vanessa Parra, +1-202-540-7025;
[email protected]