WASHINGTON (June 30, 2000) -- A new multi-agency report echoes the call of the U.S. Catholic Conference/Migration and Refugee Services (USCC/MRS) that the United States government's response to refugees is inadequate and needs to be improved.
Issued by the Refugee Council USA, of which USCC/MRS is a founding member, the report declares that the United States "can and should do more" for the world's refugees and displaced people. It calls for an increase in the Migration and Refugee Assistance account of the federal budget beyond the $660 million requested by the Clinton Administration "to increase both the U.S. overseas assistance account and the U.S. annual refugee intake."
Mark Franken, Executive Director of USCC/MRS, testifying recently before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, criticized the trend in recent years to curtail refugee admissions to the United States.
"The decline in U.S. refugee admissions is not due to a drop in the ... world's refugee population needing resettlement," Franken said. "Nor is it due to a poor U.S. economy, or a refusal by Americans to welcome refugees, or an inability on the part of the refugee resettlement agencies, like ours, to find shelter and jobs for new arrivals. It is due rather to a lack of political will to meet fully our humanitarian responsibilities."
The report, echoing Franken's testimony, criticizes the Administration's FY 2001 budget request which allows for only 76,000 to 80,000 refugee admissions, depending on cost savings realized, calling it "a disappointing and hard-to-explain drop from the Fiscal Year 2000 level of 90,000 authorized and 85,000 funded admissions." The report notes that "the Clinton Administration entered office with an admissions ceiling of 132,000" and then declares that "given the current needs, the number would not be unrealistic today."
The report provides detailed information concerning key issues such as overseas processing and protection, and domestic resettlement capacity. It also gives admissions recommendations for specific areas of the world and special populations of refugees.
The Refugee Council USA is a coalition of U.S. non-governmental organizations whose work is focused on refugee protection. Its 14 members provide advocacy on issues affecting the protection and rights of refugees and displaced persons in the United States and around the world. The Council also serves as the principal consultative forum for the national refugee resettlement and processing agencies as they formulate common positions, conduct their relations with the U.S. Government and other partners, and support and enhance refugee service standards.
It is estimated that there are 13.5 million refugees worldwide.
For copies of the report and/or more information, contact Berta J. Romero, coordinator, The Refugee Council USA at (202) 541-5402.