WASHINGTON (June 20, 2001) -- The United States should reaffirm its commitment to refugee protection by reversing the recent trend of admitting fewer refugees into the country, by offering increased assistance abroad, and by addressing the root causes which spawn migration flows, according to a resolution approved on a voice vote by the nation's Catholic Bishops at their semi-annual meeting in Atlanta last week.
The resolution was released today to mark World Refugee Day.
"We are concerned with recent trends which indicate that the United States' commitment to refugee protection is waning," the Bishops state in the resolution. "It is vital that our nation reassert its leadership role within the international community in order to ensure that all nations meet their commitments to refugee protection."
The Bishops note that since 1992, the number of refugees admitted into the United States has declined 42 percent, while U.S. overseas assistance to refugees has failed to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, the number of refugees worldwide continues to increase -- from 8 million in 1981 to more than 14 million in 2001.
The resolution marks two key anniversaries in the global effort to protect refugees: the 50th anniversary of both the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Holy See's establishment of the International Catholic Migration Commission.
"The Catholic Church holds a special interest in the plight of refugees, persons recognized by the international community as persecuted and in need of security, and asylum seekers, persons who enter a nation and request protection from persecution," the Bishops state. "The child Jesus and the Holy Family were themselves refugees."
The Bishops have encouraged an improved response to refugees in direct meetings with federal policy makers.
On May 15, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, a member of the Bishops' Migration Committee, told members of a congressional panel that "the United States must renew our commitment to welcome newcomers to our shores and to offer them human and compassionate treatment."
The resolution notes that ultimately, the root causes of "population movements" must be addressed. "Without continued initiatives toward conflict resolution and sustainable development in regions of instability, refugees and asylum seekers inevitably shall become a permanent part of the global landscape," the Bishops state. "Only through long-term efforts to share world resources more fairly and to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law standards will the world significantly reduce the number of persons who flee persecution in their homelands."
Full text of the statement.