WASHINGTON (May 17, 2001) -- The decline in refugee admissions to the United States should be halted and reversed, according to the U.S. Catholic Conference/Migration and Refugee Services and other partners in the Refugee Council USA coalition, which today launched its Recommendations for Refugee Admissions (FY 2002) at a news conference on Capitol Hill.
Together as Refugee Council USA, USCC/MRS and 18 other refugee resettlement and advocacy groups argue that at least $800 million is needed for the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account for fiscal year 2002 to assist refugees overseas, as well as to resettle refugees in the United States.
"The world watches closely at how the United States responds to refugees," said Mark Franken, Executive Director of MRS. "Eight years ago, the United States authorized the admission of 142,000 refugees. This year about half that number will be admitted and this is at a time when the worldwide population of refugees is at an all time high. It is important for the United States to reaffirm its leadership role in this critical humanitarian effort."
Illustrating the need for resettlement, Kawthar Karim Abdulla, a Kurdish woman, spoke of fleeing Saddam Hussein's persecution of her community in northern Iraq.
"In Iraq, I saw my 14 year old nephew step on a land mine, and my family and I were beaten and forced from our home by the Iraqi authorities," she said. "My children and I have been
in the United States for three months and we are happy and safe. My children are attending school and I am learning English so that I can get a job."
While U.S. admissions of refugees has declined, the number of refugees worldwide has steadily increased.
"Refugees continue to appear on the world scene in disturbing numbers and U.S. leadership in ensuring their protection is badly needed," said Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, chair of the Refugee Council USA. "While the vast majority of refugees will eventually return to their home country or be integrated into countries of first asylum, third country resettlement in the United States remains necessary to save the lives of those who can never return because of fear of persecution."
The world today hosts approximately 14 million refugees, an increase of one million people over the last two years and nearly two and one-half times the number in 1980. Refugee admissions in the current fiscal year will total approximately 70,000. Funding for resettlement programs is included in the MRA account, a section of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, and has been the only major State Department account to undergo a substantial real-dollar cut in recent years.
Gideon Aronoff, HIAS 202-828-5115
Berta Romero, RCUSA 202-541-5402