oversight

Refugees From Eastern Europe

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1989-11-02.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                      United States General Accounting Office   1-f I’ g f .3
                      Testimony


                                                                     139893


For Release           Refugees   from   Eastern   Europe
on Delivery
Expected at
 1O:OO a.m. EST
Thursday
November 2, 1989




                      Statement   of
                      Nancy R. Kingsbury,    Director
                      Foreign   Economic Assistance     Issues,
                      National   Security and International         Affairs
                      Division

                      Before the. Subcommittee     on Immigration
                      Refugees,  and International     Law,
                      Committee on the Judiciary,
                      House of Representatives




GA   -   EIAD-90-07
                                                                      GAO Form 160 (12/87)
Mr.     Chairman           and Members of                  the    Subcommittee:


We are       here      today            at your      request           to present              information                     recently
obtained          in Washington,                  D.C.,       and Europe              concerning                     patterns         of
emigration           from         Eastern         European            countries.               Though                somewhat
random,       the      subcommittee                staff         believed            this      information                    would         be
helpful       as you consider                     the      situation            of    East         Europeans                 and related
U.S.      refugee          policies          and admissions.


As you know,               remarkable             changes         have been              taking           place             during         the
past      year,      even         the     past     few weeks,             in     several            Eastern                 European
countries           that         have     traditionally                been      refugee-producing
countries.            Changing             political             circumstances                 in Poland                    have     led     to
increasing           opportunities                 for       Poles       to     travel            to other              countries.
The Hungarian               government's                 recent        declaration                 that         it      is    now a
democratic           republic,             the     opening            o'f its        border         with             neighboring
Austria,          and its          recognition               by the       United            Nations             as a country                 of
first       asylum         for     refugees,             have     eased         emigration                for         its     citizens.
Additionally,               East         Germany         has experienced                    a dramatic                  exodus        of     its
citizens          to West Germany,                  partly            due to         the     changing                 political
situation           in Hungary.


Economic          conditions              throughout             Eastern         Europe            continue                 to worsen.
As a result,               increasing            numbers          of     citizens            of     these             countries
continue to leave                   to     seek better                lives      in      the      West.               However,
    Y
taken as a whole,                   much of            the    Eastern           European            migration                 appears

                                                                  1
to be movement                     toward          ethnic          homelands              and thus               presents          no
immediate              problem             for     the      United          States.                 For     example,            large       number
of   Romanians               of      Hungarian             origin           have         emigrated               to Hungary.
Similarly,              a        large      number         of      East      Germans have emig‘rated                               to West
Germany.           The hundreds                      of     thousands              of     ethnic            Turks        being      forced         to
leave       Bulgaria               because           of    ethnic           and religious                      suppression              have
been entering                     Turkey.            Although           Turkey                is    asking        the     United         States
to   resettle               some of              those     with       relatives                    in    the     United       States,
Bulgarian          Turks             are     mostly             resettling               in Turkey.


In addition                 to     those          who flee          to ethnic                  homelands,            thousands              of
other       East        Europeans                 have     entered           Austria                and West Germany                    seeking
resettlement.                      Although              we do not           have         an estimate                of     the     total
number       of East               Europeans              in     Austria,           as of               September         30,      1989,
Austria       was providing                        assistance               to     13,651               people      (5,466         Romanians,
3,094       Czechoslovaks,                        1,179        Poles,        559 Yugoslavians,                           533 Bulgarians,
400 Hungarians,                      15 Albanians,                  and 2,405                  others).             These        people          are
housed       in    camps and hotels                            around        Vienna.                    Due in part           to    the      large
influx       of    East            Europeans,              Austria           has         instituted               a "rapid          review
process"          of        asylum          applications                to       limit             the    camp population                   to
those       meeting               the     united          Nations'           refugee                definition.                 (Austrian
refugee       status               decisions              are      reviewed              by the           United         Nations         High
Commissioner                 for         Refugees          before           they         are        finalized            to ensure           the
integrity          of        the         adjudication.process.)                                    We were        told      by State
Department             officials                  that     as a result                   of        the    changing          political
environment                 in     Poland          and Hungary,                  Austria                has virtually              stopped

                                                                        2
granting            refugee         status          to Hungarians                    and Poles,           will       soon begin
expelling              Hungarians              and Poles         from          its         refugee      camps,           and in
January          1990 will              stop     accepting             Hungarian              asylum         applications.


Other        East       European           asylum        applicants                  are     in West Germany.                        State
Department              officials            estimate           that         70,000          East      Germans           are
registered              with      West Germany and perhaps                                  75,000      more are               in    the
country          but     not      registered.                  The East              German emigrants                    are        provided
with     West German citizenship,                               social          security             and retirement
benefits,              job     training,            priority           for      housing,             and subsistence
stipends.               In addition              to     resettling              East         Germans,         West Germany                      is
providing           assistance               to other           East         Europeans,              mostly        Poles            and
Hungarians.                   West German officials                          reported           that      over       260,000              East
Europeans              (excluding            East       Germans)             arrived          in West Germany                       during
the     first       9 months            of      1989.          Most of          the         17,034      Poles        currently
registered              for     consideration                  by the         United          States         as refugees                  are
in West Germany.                     However,            changing             circumstances                  in     Poland           have
resulted          in West Germany                     becoming           increasingly                  unwilling           .to
continue          to support               them.         The United                  States         has pledged            to move
all     East      Europeans             approved          for     resettlement                      before        July     1,        1989
to     the      United         States        by the     end of December 1989.                                 There        were           about
                                                            .
700 such East                  European          refugees     in West Germany at                              the        end of
September            1989.
CURRENT STATUS OF EAST EUROPEAN
EMIGRANTS SEEKING U.S. REFUGEE STATUS
During       the    past        five          fiscal          years,        the       United        States      has admitted
an average          of        8,700      East          European            refugees          per      year.       The majority
have been          Poles        and Hungarians.                          As of        September           30,   1989,        25,455         .
East     Europeans             were      registered                 as refugee              applicants          with
voluntary          agencies             for         interviews             with       the    Immigration            and
Naturalization                 Service              (INS)      in Europe.               Most        processing          of        these
applicants          takes         place          in     Frankfurt,                 Vienna,       and Rome.             In
addition,          1,893        applicants                  have     been          approved         as refugees             but     have
not    yet    departed            for         the      United        States          because          refugee       numbers          were
unavailable             for     them in              fiscal         year       1989.         Table        1 shows the
countries          of    origin          of      these         refugee             applicants.             Most     are      Poles
and Hungarians                 (79 percent).


                                                                   Table       1
       East        European           U.S.          Refugee         Applicants'                Countries          of Origin
                                                     Awaiting            INS            Approved,
Country       of origin                              interview                          awaiting           departure
Albania                                                       30                                    30
Bulgaria                                                    417                                     69
Czechoslovakia                                         2,255                                        88
Poland                                               17,034                                  1,080
Romania                                                2,595                                       364
Hungary                                                3,120                                     262
Yugoslavia                                                     4                                      0
    *
Total                                                25,455                                  1>893.


                                                                     4
State      Department                  officials               informed          us that               interviews                of East
Europeans              were      limited              during           fiscal         year          1989 because                 of      a
restricted              availability                   of      refugee          slots.               A total          of        6,500         slots
were      allocated              for         fiscal          year       1989.          The majority                   of        those         were
used      for      over        5,400          fiscal          year        1988 approvals,                      and existing                     fiscal
year      1989 commitments.                             In     fact,         about       8,950          East         Europeans                entered
the      United         States          during           fiscal          year        1989,           using       the       6,500
allocation,              along          with          1,750       slots         reallocated                   from     unused                Soviet
refugee         admission               slots          and 750 semi-funded                            admission                 slots.
(Apparently,                  about          50 of       the        increased            admission               slots           were         not
used.)          According               to INS officials,                        limitations                   on the            number             of
interviews              for     Hungarians                   and Poles           continue               during         fiscal                year
1990,      while         policy              options          are       considered              for       future           processing.


As you are              aware,          the      refugee             ceilings            for         fiscal       year           1990 include
6,500      slots         for      Eastern              Europe           refugees.               As a practical                        matter,
however,          it     appears              that       many of             these,       about           5,000,           have          already
been committed                  to      approved              refugees           pending              admission             at        the      end of
fiscal       year        1989 and by specific                                refugee           commitments                 for        fiscal
year      1990.          These          commitments                  include          -the allocation                      of      refugee
numbers         to admit               (1)     immediate                relatives              of     refugees             already
admitted          to     the     United               States           (Visa     93),          (2)      Romanians                already
approved          for         refugee          admission               who will           receive              the     Romanian
government's       permission    to emigrate    in fisdal                                                year        1990,            and       (3)
     Y
refugees     interviewed      and approved   in Belgrade,                                                     Yugoslavia.                     Thus,

                                                                         5
only      about       1,500         slots         will       be available                  for        25,445         pending     East
European          applications                   in      fiscal       year         1990.             The 5,000         allocated
slots       were     distributed                  as shown in Table                        2.
                                                                   Table       2
   Allocation              of     Fiscal          Year       1990 Eastern               European.Refugee                       Numbers


Special       use allocation
Fiscal       year         1990 Allocation                                                                                        6,500
Approved        pending            departure                (g/30/89)                                        1,900
Visa      93 applicants                                                                                      1,600
Romanian          third         country           processing                program                          1,000
Belgrade        processed                refugees                                                              500
Subtotal:                                                                                                                        5,000
Remaining          available              for     fiscal           year      1990                                                  1,500


Austria       and West Germany have                                traditionally                 provided             support      for
Polish      and Hungarian                      refugee            applicants           awaiting               adjudication          but
have      recently          moved toward                   terminating                such assistance                   and are
concerned          that         continued              processing              by the           United         States      would
encourage           additional                 emigration             of     these      groups.                The dramatically
changing        circumstances                     in     Poland           and Hungary                have moved the              United
States       to reassess                 its      policies            for      East     European               refugee
applicants.               According               to State            Department                and INS officials,
various       options             for     processing                Poles          and Hungarians                    have been      under
consideration               for         several          weeks.            However,             at     the     time     this
   u
testimony       was drafted,        we were     unable   to obtain    information    on the
policy      changes    being    contemplated.


This     concludes     my prepared      statement,       Mr.   Chairman.    Thank   you
again     for   the   opportunity      to be of      assistance.