Director León Rodríguez of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) visits ICMC’s office in Istanbul

Geneva, 10 July 2015 - On 25 June, the International Catholic Migration Commission’s Resettlement Support Center in Turkey and Middle East (RSC TuME) welcomed Director León Rodríguez of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at its Istanbul office. Ms. Pascale Moreau, the new UNHCR Representative in Turkey, joined Director Rodríguez during the visit.

Specially trained officers from the Refugee Affairs Division of USCIS determine the status of refugee applications to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) throughout the world.

USCIS Director León Rodríguez in ICMC’s Rsettlement Support Center in Turkey.USCIS Director León Rodríguez, fourth from the left, meets the refugees who attended cultural orientation classes in ICMC’s Resettlement Support Center in Turkey. Photo credit: ICMC The USCIS Director toured the RSC TuME activities, observed an interview with a refugee being considered for resettlement to the United States, and participated in an adult and youth cultural orientation class for refugees ready to depart for the U.S.

Following Director Rodriguez’s conversation with a refugee who has been living in Turkey for six years and hoping to find a new future for his family in the United States, the Director noted that there were refugees in his own family, and that he empathized with the refugee and the uncertainty he was facing. The Director stated that the work being done was both challenging and important, and stressed that USCIS values its working relationship with ICMC’s RSC on behalf of refugees.

Discussions highlighted the importance of sustaining a robust resettlement program for all displaced and vulnerable communities living in Turkey, particularly Syrian refugees, and the excellent cooperation between USCIS and RSC TuME in support of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.ICMC Director, Linda Samardzic, said about the visit: “The RSC values the dedication and hard work being done by the USCIS officers as they adjudicate each refugee referred to the program.  Refugee applicants are recounting horrifying displacement experiences and have multiple needs and vulnerabilities resulting from the conflicts. ICMC’s RSC strongly supports a larger program and is prepared to meet a growing program’s challenges.”

The resettlement of refugees from Turkey to the United States continues to be a critical component of the international efforts to find durable solutions on behalf of refugees who have been displaced from their countries of origin and who have sought refuge in Turkey. Effective partnerships between different U.S. agencies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and ICMC are critical for the success of the program.

Turkish authorities continue to provide a safe haven for 2 million refugees fleeing regional conflict and the people have been generous in spirit and resources. The U.S. Refugee Admission Program is a critical protection tool for a small number of the most vulnerable among these.

Also in attendance were Chief of Staff, Juliet K. Choi, Joanna Ruppel, Acting Deputy Associate Director, Barbara Strack, Chief, Refugee Affairs Division, Robert Ward, PRM Regional Refugee Coordinator, Elmar Bagirov, Senior Resettlement Officer, UNHCR Ankara, Lerzan Fidanoglu, Durable Solutions Officer, UNHCR Ankara and Jason Low, Regional Resettlement Officer, MENA Protection Service, Office of the MENA Director in UNHCR Amman, Jordan.

Fully funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), ICMC operates the RSC for Turkey and Middle East with offices in Istanbul, Turkey and Beirut, Lebanon. Since 2009, RSC TuME has resettled more than 37,000 refugees to the United States.