Italian Filippo Grandiholds his first press conference after being appointed as UN High Commissioner for Refugees of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 7, 2016. The 58-year-old Grandi previously headed the agency that assists Palestinian refugees, the UN Relief and Works Agency. (Xinhua/Xu Jinquan)
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- The head of the United Nations refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, on Monday said he is "deeply worried" by the uncertainty facing thousands of refugees around the world who are in the process of being resettled to the United States after the country suspended its refugee program last week.
Grandi's statement came after U.S. President Donald Trump's Friday signing of an Executive Order that, among things, suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and, according to media reports, bars entry of refugees from several mostly Muslim countries, including Syria, until further notice.
Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, underlined once again the position of the the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.
According to a news release from UNHCR, more than 800 refugees were set to make America their new home this week alone, but instead find themselves barred from travelling to the United States.
UNHCR estimates that 20,000 refugees in precarious circumstances might have been resettled to the United States during the 120 days covered by the suspension announced Friday, based on average monthly figures for the last 15 years.
"Refugees are anxious, confused and heartbroken at this suspension in what is already a lengthy process," the press release said.
"Refugees share the very same concerns about security and safety that Americans have," the press release said. "They themselves are fleeing war, persecution, oppression and terrorism."
"The individuals and families UNHCR refers to governments for resettlement are the most vulnerable -- such as people needing urgent medical assistance, survivors of torture, and women and girls at risk," it said. "The new homes provided by resettlement countries are life-saving for people who have no other options."
The vast majority of the world's refugees are hosted in developing countries, and less than one percent will ever be resettled globally, the UN agency said. "Those accepted for resettlement by the United States, after a rigorous U.S. security screening process, are coming to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. UNHCR hopes that they will be able to do so as soon as possible."
"Resettlement has been a sign of tangible solidarity with the world's most vulnerable refugees," the press release said. "It is also an important way governments and communities can help share responsibility with major refugee-hosting countries, which have been shouldering the brunt of the displacement crisis in recent years."
Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) issued a statement on child refugees that might be affected by the new U.S. policy.
"The needs of refugees have never been greater," the statement said. "Worldwide 28 million children have been uprooted by conflict, driven from their homes by violence and terror. They need our help."
"The United States has a long and proud tradition of protecting children fleeing war and persecution," the statement said. "We trust that this support will continue and that the recent measures will prove to be temporary. All refugee children need our support."
UNICEF said it is committed to continuing its work with governments and other partners around the world to help some of the most vulnerable children everywhere, from Syria to Yemen to South Sudan.