Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Examining the U.S. response to refugees worldwide

In honor of World Refugee Day (June 20) Ellen Sauerbrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), provided an overview of the U.S.’s response to refugees worldwide. Speaking at an event today hosted by the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, Sauerbrey began by quoting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “As a wealthy nation, we have an obligation to help those in need.”

To address the needs of the some 10 million refugees worldwide, PRM has a $1 billion budget, approximately $600 million of which goes towards refugee assistance programs, with the remainder for the U.S. resettlement program, according to Sauerbrey. The majority of the assistance portion is allocated to fund 20 to 25 percent of the budgets of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Committee for the Red Cross, International Organization for Migration and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. The remainder is granted to nongovernmental organizations. Sauerbrey assured the audience that “the U.S. is not just a silent partner” in these initiatives.

Education of refugee children was the greatest point of emphasis during Sauerbrey’s address. Within the next 10 weeks, PRM programs will provide school preparation assistance to 100,000 Iraqi refugee children in Syria and 150,000 in Jordan. This school-readiness program also includes psycho-social assistance.

In regards to refugee resettlement, Sauerbrey said that the U.S. accepts more than half of all refugees resettled each year. Sauerbrey also urged other countries to establish refugee resettlement programs. She highlighted Japan, which currently does not accept any refugees for resettlement. The U.S. resettlement program, which will see its first set of Iraqi refugees in the coming weeks, along with, among others, 60,000 Bhutanese refugees, is “based completely and solely on humanitarian” and not political grounds, Sauerbrey said.

Sauerbrey also took the opportunity to officially announce the International Fund for Refugee Women and Children, which is designed to provide the recipients with education, skills training and programs against gender-based violence. As less than 5 percent of PRM’s budget is spent on education, the fund allows Americans to financially assist PRM’s efforts.

Sauerbrey said that today is an occasion to reflect on the suffering and successes of refugees and those who help them.


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