USCCB News Release
June 19, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Migration Conference To Stress The Plight Of Refugees
WASHINGTON—The plight of refugee and asylum seekers from throughout the world will be a prevalent theme of the National Migration Conference to be held at the Hilton Washington Hotel in the District of Columbia, July 28-31.
The conference is sponsored by the Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).
At a time where the Iraqi refugee problem is becoming a significant humanitarian crisis, often overshadowed by the broader military and political conflict, the National Migration Conference is preparing to discuss information, strategies and best practices to help refugee and asylum seekers, not just from Iraq but throughout the world. As many as two million Iraqis are displaced in their own country and another two million have fled Iraq to take refuge in surrounding countries like Syria and Jordan. It is estimated that over 40 million people worldwide are currently uprooted by violence and persecution.
In addition to the testimony of refugee and author Immaculee Ilibagiza, survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the National Migration Conference will include workshops on very diverse aspects of providing assistance and giving a voice to refugees, victims of human trafficking, migrants and other people on the move.
Workshops will be offered on topics such as identifying and supporting survivors of traumatic events; refugee children in fragile family situations and the challenges for identification, protection and resettlement; a Catholic response to human trafficking and tips to identify and effectively serve this population; unaccompanied minors in government custody; refugee protection in the post 9/11 era; and challenges to resettlement of newly arriving refugee groups such as Iraqis and Bhutanese.
A workshop will also focus on the recertification for refugees with professional backgrounds, an area where there is a tremendous need but very little guidance or available resources to help refugees through the process. Job upgrading can lift refugees out of entry-level employment and increase their income and self-sufficiency levels. About 63 percent of recent Iraqi refugees hold a college degree. A similar situation happens with Cuban refugees and others.
The National Migration Conference will also include a panel of federal officials on the efforts to restore the U.S. refugee admission program to pre-2001 levels. A workshop on the Federal Partner Forum will deal with current refugee pipeline and other issues.
On his message for World Refugee Day, celebrated on Friday, June 20, Pope Benedict XVI called the attention of the international community "to the condition of many people who are forced to flee their own lands because of serious forms of violence." The pope also said that "[t]hese brothers and sisters of ours seek refuge in other countries with the hope of being able to return to their homes or, at least, of finding hospitality where they have sought refuge." He called on Catholic communities and organizations to offer them concrete help and on the international community to do more to ensure respect for the human rights of refugees.
Last year MRS/USCCB resettled 28 percent of all refugees admitted into the United States, or 13,631 of 48,281 refugees admitted in 2007. These persons represented 41 different countries with the largest groups coming from Burma, Burundi, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Liberia, and Vietnam. Placements are done in partnership with over a hundred diocesan offices throughout the United States. The U.S. refugee admission ceiling for fiscal year 2008 has been placed at 70,000 and MRS expects to assist with the resettlement of a similar percentage.