Stricter Enforcement of Refugees' Transportation Loan Repayments Needed

Gao ID: NSIAD-85-56 March 8, 1985

GAO reviewed the Department of State's transportation loan program, which finances the transportation of refugees from temporary asylums overseas to the United States through a revolving loan fund, administered by the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration (ICM), which is an international organization based in Switzerland.

GAO found that, before leaving their asylum countries, refugees sign interest-free promissory notes to repay their transportation costs. However, GAO found that, from 1951 through 1984, only about 20 percent of the amount loaned to refugees had been repaid. The low repayment rates have required State to replenish the revolving loan accounts with over $30 million for additional appropriations in 1983 and 1984, and State has estimated that it will cost approximately $50 million in 1985. Without significant changes in the repayment rates and annual refugee admissions, similar funding levels will be required to keep the program operational. GAO found that the low collection and repayment rates have resulted from inefficient collection methods used by voluntary agencies and the lack of law enforcement. Although most voluntary agencies are improving their loan collection procedures and systems, they are still experiencing problems with maintaining current billing addresses for refugees due to their continual changes of residence. GAO found that the lack of enforcement has been due to the reluctance on the part of the parties associated with the program to enforce repayment of the debts. ICM has questioned the validity of the notes, and State and the voluntary agencies have been uncertain as to whom the debt is owed. Furthermore, many refugees either refuse to acknowledge their debt obligation or to make any payments. Therefore, GAO found that enforcement may require changes in the language and the administration of the loans.


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