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allowed to leave that country.
The 50,800 Soviet refugees we
will resettle this year in the United States sets a new record, and parallels unmatched levels of Soviet Jewish emigration to
Last year I described our plans to close the Rome-Vienna pipeline for Soviet refugee applicants and to transfer all processing to Moscow. We discussed a nascent Washington Processing Center, and a new system in which most of the paperwork for refugee applications would be handled in this country, with files shuttled back and forth to our Embassy in Moscow. We have now completed these changes, with the result that we can handle the same number of refugees at a substantially lower cost to the Migration and Refugee Assistance budget.
This new system has proven so successful
that we are now considering it as a model for other types of visa processing.
B. Indochinese Refugees
characterized the Vietnamese refugee problem last year as long-standing and extraordinarily complex. It is no less so now than then. However, we still believe that the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) that resulted from the 1989 International Conference on Indochinese Refugees represents the best mechanism
for addressing humanely the concerns of all involved nations. Implementation of the CPA is a difficult task, but we have been steadfast in our commitment to the practice of first asylum and our opposition to forced repatriation of Vietnamese.
The most serious difficulty we have encountered has been Malaysia's refusal to offer safe landing to Vietnamese boat people. The United States has protested
and continues to
Malaysia's failure to abide by the CPA's
provision that all arriving Vietnamese boat people are to be offered first asylum. Other items of concern with regard to the CPA include: conditions in camps in Hong Kong; the relatively slow pace of screening; and the need for the quick and effective operation of committees in each first asylum country to provide special attention to unaccompanied minors.
At the same time, however, there has been progress in several key areas of the CPA. For example, resettlement of the longstayers has been a success, and we are ahead of the schedule agreed to at the conference. The Orderly Departure Program also has been vastly expanded with good cooperation from Vietnam, in particular in the implementation of last summer's agreement for the resettlement of former reeducation center detainees. Refugee screening programs are underway in each first asylum
nation, too, representing a major new activity on behalf of
Indochinese asylum seekers. And, voluntary repatriation
programs under the CPA have enabled over 4,000 Vietnamese and nearly 2,000 Lao to return to their homes.
The major unresolved issue concerns the return of non-refugees to Vietnam. The U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees, Thorvald Stoltenberg, has held extensive negotiations with all concerned governments on this subject and has proposed an expansion of the existing UNHCR voluntary repatriation program to include those "who do not object" to returning home. At the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference in late July, Secretary Baker announced U.S. support for the High Commissioner's efforts and raised U.S. concerns with the Foreign Ministers of each of the first asylum countries. Moreover, the Secretary stated the willingness of the United States to join in a multilateral pledge to undertake "best efforts to accomplish the return or resettlement of all Vietnamese asylum seekers by the end of 1992. At the conclusion of the Conference, the ASEAN nations confirmed their willingness to continue to support the CPA.
Recently, on September 22, the British and Vietnamese Governments, along with the UNHCR, announced an agreement on the return to Vietnam of Vietnamese in Hong Kong who have been
determined not to be refugees and who do not object. We expect the U.N. High Commissioner to provide the necessary safeguards to ensure that there is no force or coercion employed and that the existing system for UNHCR monitoring in Vietnam is expanded to cover all returnees.
The August 2 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq has generated a tremendous number of displaced persons. Exact figures are
difficult to determine, because more people flee Iraq and Kuwait every day. However, the following estimates can be considered
accurate to date:
Over 540,000 people have fled to Jordan from Iraq
About 40,000 have crossed the Turkish-Iraqi border
Over 20,000 have crossed the Iraq-Iran border
And well over 240,000 people have fled to Saudi
Arabia and other Gulf states from Kuwait.
Those fleeing are generally not refugees suffering
persecution, but rather third-country nationals who until August 2 were employed in Iraq and Kuwait. In most cases they have escaped with few personal resources, and will return home
penniless. The overwhelming numbers of displaced persons impose a severe resource burden on countries such as Jordan and Turkey.
Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other countries have undertaken impressive efforts to care for these displaced persons. Although conditions in some of the camps were initially harsh, there have been no deaths due to starvation or epidemic disease. In Jordan, the worst camps have been closed and the residents have been moved to new camps with adequate sanitation and shelter. In Turkey, the only victims of hunger and disease are newly arrived displaced persons who developed their conditions while still in Iraq.
The international response to this emergency has grown rapidly and is now effectively meeting the challenge. The Red Crescent societies in Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have been in the forefront in helping care for the displaced persons. They are now backed up by an array of international agencies and personnel. In Jordan, the U.N. Disaster Relief Organization (UNDRO) coordinates the work of several U.N. agencies. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the League of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies (LICROSS) are also playing major roles. U.S. and European non-governmental organizations have become active as well.