Today marks the 17th annual World Refugee Day to raise awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. The United States commemorates World Refugee Day on June 20th each year to acknowledge the challenges refugees face, commend the humanitarian work being done to help these populations, and encourage a continued global effort to address refugee crises. In his World Refugee Day Statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson underlines U.S. recognition of “the plight of those forced by persecution and war to flee their home countries,” and “the pressing challenges posed by ongoing refugee crises.” Today, there are over 22 million refugees around the world.
The United States and the international community remain committed to providing aid to refugees. “The United States recognizes the extraordinary generosity of refugee-hosting countries and their local communities who support displaced persons,” said Secretary Tillerson. “These countries offer an act of service to those suffering great hardship.” The United States adds to these efforts with our humanitarian action. Total U.S. humanitarian assistance contributions worldwide were more than $7 billion in Fiscal Year 2016, including funding from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Secretary Tillerson remarked that “as the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance, the United States is a leader in supporting refugees and addressing causes of forced displacement.” U.S. assistance funds urgent, life-saving items, child protection programs, food, shelter, healthcare services, and access to clean water. We partner with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Food Program (WFP), the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), and a number of other international and non-governmental partners to deliver this aid.
In recognizing that “the overwhelming majority of refugees want to go home to help rebuild their societies once the violence has stopped,” it is our hope that these vulnerable and crisis-affected individuals receive assistance and protection until they are able to return home safely and voluntarily. Refugee children are in particular need of assistance and protection. In 2016, 51 percent of the refugee population were children below 18 years of age. The United States strives to address protracted conflicts around the world that are producing so many refugees. U.S. humanitarian assistance to Syrians totals over $6.5 billion since the start of the crisis. While the primary goal of our humanitarian assistance is to assist refugees overseas, since 1975 the United States has also offered new beginnings to more than 3.3 million refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
The United States will remain a world leader in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees, which is consistent with the generosity of the American people and paramount to ensuring the safety and security of our nation. In addition, the United States will continue to emphasize the importance of international responses and the need for other governments to address humanitarian crises by expanding the number of donors and increasing global contributions to humanitarian appeals and response, as well as advocating for humanitarian access wherever necessary. Secretary Tillerson underscores the U.S. commitment to addressing the world refugee crisis, stating, “as we mark World Refugee Day, we will continue to aid those who have been forced from their homes, address the root causes of their displacement, and foster long-term solutions to humanitarian crises.”
About the Author: Simon Henshaw serves as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.
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