GENEVA (Reuters) -The U.N. refugee agency on Tuesday welcomed a decision by U.S. President Joe Biden to admit up to 62,500 refugees this year, saying it hoped this would inspire other countries to resettle more people fleeing war or persecution.
Biden said on Monday he had resurrected a plan to raise refugee admissions this year to 62,500 after drawing a wave of criticism from supporters for initially keeping the refugee cap at a historically low level of 15,000, set by his predecessor Donald Trump, an immigration hawk.
Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, praised Biden's decision as "a move to restore the U.S. leadership on refugee resettlement" that would also save lives.
It came as global resettlement of refugees has plummeted to unprecedented levels after states imposed low quotas and departures and processing were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Grandi said.
Barely 1.6% of 1.44 million people with refugee status who were prioritised for resettlement in another country of asylum last year found new homelands through the UNHCR, or 22,770 - the lowest number in nearly two decades.
"The U.S. commitments to increase admissions for this year and the next are therefore a lifeline for refugees and for our global resettlement programme," Grandi said.
(Reporting by Stephanie NebehayEditing by Mark Heinrich)