WASHINGTON (April 21, 1999) -- Mark Franken, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the United States Catholic Conference (USCC), the largest resettler of refugees in the United States,
today welcomed the decision of the Clinton Administration to bring to the United States 20,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees from Macedonia for temporary protection.
The decision of the United States to take responsibility for 20,000 Kosovar Albanians is a necessary and appropriate one, considering the volatility of the refugee situation in the Balkans, particularly Macedonia, stated Mr. Franken. "We stand ready to assist the government in welcoming the refugees and offering them aid until such time as they are able to return to their homeland," he said.
In a statement April 6, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, and chairman of the U.S. Bishop's Committee on Migration, opposed the relocation of Kosovar refugees to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Franken praised the U.S. decision to process the refugees in Macedonia and transport them directly to the United States for placement with relatives or sponsoring families and communities.
"MRS has received numerous calls from U.S. citizens wanting to assist the Kosovar Albanians. We believe that the capacity exists in the United States to care for these traumatized individuals in a community-based atmosphere, and not in a prison-like facility like Guantanamo Naval Base," Mr. Franken said.
In his comments, Mr. Franken also reiterated the position of the U.S. Catholic bishops that the Kosovar refugees have the right to return to their homeland in security and freedom. "Our collective goal is to offer aid until such time as these vulnerable persons can return to Kosovo," Mr. Franken concluded.
Over the next week, MRS will be working with Catholic dioceses around the country to identify placements for the refugees.
For more information, contact Mark Franken, Executive Director of MRS, at 202-541-3169, or Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration and Refugee Policy, at 202-541-3260.