December 9, 2014, Geneva
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration
As Prepared for Delivery
I would like to thank HC Guterres and Renata Dubini. Your leadership on the Syria crisis has made a huge difference, as has all of your work on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.
I also want to recognize Germany and Sweden for their commitment to Syrian refugees and asylum seekers. We are also grateful to Sweden for leading the Syrian Resettlement Core Group over the last year.
We applaud the generosity of Syria’s neighbors. They opened their borders and took in Syrian refugees. Like the High Commissioner I have visited all the host countries represented here today. These countries have helped save millions of lives.
As the flow of refugees has grown to a mass exodus, countries hosting refugees in the region have contended with overcrowded hospitals and schools, shortages of everything from housing to water, economic pressures and recent evidence of mounting public resentment.
But these very real burdens must pale in comparison to the daily struggles of Syrians themselves.
Imagine losing practically everything – your loved ones, your home, your profession, and your dignity. Imagine the frustration of languishing for years, unable to work or send children to school, exhausting your resources and relying on handouts. Imagine fearing that this situation is never going to end.
For Syrians and for other victims of violence and persecution – resettlement offers not just an escape, but a chance to start over.
A family from Homs, a shop owner, his wife, and their six children, experienced this flight and rescue. In August of 2010, the father was standing in a crowd of peaceful protesters when the Syrian military arrived and opened fire. Bodies piled up in front of his shop, shells reduced it to rubble, neighbors disappeared, and soldiers ransacked the family’s apartment and made threats. The family fled to Jordan, and they were eventually resettled in the United States. The parents say one of their dreams has already come true. All of their children are back in school.
Only a small fraction of those who want to be resettled can be – only about one hundred thousand refugees per year, worldwide. There are more than six times that many Syrian refugees in Jordan alone.
But war’s true cost is measured in human suffering. Resettlement can help – one person at a time – to bring that suffering to an end.
We applaud the 25 countries that have agreed to resettle Syrian refugees, including some who will be accepting UNHCR refugee referrals for the first time. The United States accepts the majority of all UNHCR referrals from around the world. Last year, we reached our goal of resettling nearly 70,000 refugees from nearly 70 countries. And we plan to lead in resettling Syrians as well. We are reviewing some 9,000 recent UNHCR referrals from Syria. We are receiving roughly a thousand new ones each month, and we expect admissions from Syria to surge in 2015 and beyond.
Like most other refugees resettled in the United States, they will get help from the International Organization for Migration with medical exams and transportation to the United States. Once they arrive, networks of resettlement agencies, charities, churches, civic organizations and local volunteers will welcome them. These groups work in 180 communities across the country and make sure refugees have homes, furniture, clothes, English classes, job training, health care and help enrolling their children in school. They are now preparing key contacts in American communities to welcome Syrians.
I am inspired both by the resilience of refugees we resettle, and the compassion of those who help them. Resettlement cannot replace what refugees have lost or erase what they have endured. But it can renew hope and help restart lives. That can make all the difference.