Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Closes Door on Refugees

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Closes Door on Refugees

Article excerpt

President Clinton seems to enjoy his reputation as a humanitarian. While actively pursuing a high-profile handshake altruism, however, Mr. Clinton has neglected humanitarianism in his own backyard by decreasing the number of refugees given shelter by the United States to the lowest figure in a decade.

Recently, the president set the number of refugees admitted to the US at 78,000 for 1999, down from 83,000 in 1998. Overall refugee admissions to the US have plummeted from a Bush-administration high of 142,000 in 1992 to 70,000 in 1997 - a 58 percent drop in refugee admissions during the Clinton presidency. These are refugees who've already proven that, if they return to their home countries, they will be persecuted or killed because of their religion, race, national origin, membership in a social group, or political opinion. Yet, not once on Clinton's watch has the overall ceiling for refugee admissions been met.

Clinton deserves praise for raising the previously paltry number of refugees allowed to enter the US from Africa. However, this will be an empty gesture until he decides to improve the Byzantine way in which refugees are processed in Africa. Simultaneously, the administration reduced by 3,000 the number of European and former Soviet refugees admitted to the US. This comes at a time when 270,000 persons have fled ethnic violence in Kosovo, and several former Soviet republics teeter on the brink of civil war. If the situation is bad enough for Clinton to be considering air strikes in Kosovo, now is not the time to shut the door on refugees. An idea seems to have taken root at the State Department that since the cold war's end, there are no more refugees. However, human misery and fear are felt equally, whether the oppressors are communists, fascists, or fundamentalists. The administration reduced the number of refugees allowed to enter the US from East Asia by 5,000. However, last year saw 20,000 Burmese and 70,000 Cambodians fleeing to Thailand. …

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