U.S. Statement at the UNHCR Conference on Global Responsibility Sharing for Syrian Refugees
As Delivered by Heather Higginbottom,
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources
March 30, 1016
We thank the Secretary General and High Commissioner Grandi for convening this opportunity to enhance our collective effort to aid one of the most vulnerable populations in the world today. The United States commends the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and other humanitarian organizations, for their life-saving work with the displaced. And we deeply appreciate the generosity of countries that are hosting large numbers of Syrians.
We have an abiding interest in the protection and dignity of Syrian refugees fleeing persecution and war. President Obama and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly emphasized that the pursuit of peace in Syria is the only permanent solution to the humanitarian crisis.
The stories of vulnerable people motivate us to dig deeper to find new energy and new resources to meet the growing need. Two days ago, I met with refugees fleeing violence at a reception center in Lesvos, Greece. They are relieved to be out of immediate danger, but they are scared about what lies before them. Despite this, they are committed to building a better life. I spoke with a Syrian engineering student who had stayed in Aleppo when his entire family fled because he wanted to finish his studies. But when his home was destroyed and his cousin was killed by ISIL, he too fled. His most fervent wish is to find a place where he can complete his studies. We owe it to him, and the millions like him, to improve both the scale and the systems by which we provide assistance to refugees. They, like all human beings, deserve a life of dignity and hope.
If we are to make a tangible impact to reduce the suffering of those in grave need, we must all increase our efforts. Today, the United States government is committing an additional $10 million for the UNHCR appeal for resettlement activities. This funding will support UNHCR efforts to identify and refer greater numbers of refugees from the Middle East and other parts of the world for resettlement. This is in addition to the $20 million that I announced Monday in Lesvos for assistance to refugees and at-risk migrants throughout Europe, including Greece, Western Turkey, and the Balkans.
In addition, we have established a new program that allows U.S. citizens to file refugee applications for their Syrian relatives in the region, further strengthening our commitment to reunifying families. And we are eager to provide U.S. technical assistance on resettlement and integration to countries developing new programs. We have committed over $1 million to create long-term partnerships with resettlement and integration experts and practitioners in Europe. Our exchange programs related to the Syrian refugee crisis will double in size this year.
The United States is the leading single-country donor for Syrian refugee assistance, having provided over $5.1 billion in humanitarian assistance to the region since the start of the Syria crisis. We have considerably increased the total number of refugees we take in from around the world by nearly 50 percent since 2014. We have reviewed our resettlement procedures and are taking steps to shorten the timeline for resettlement without compromising the robust security screening procedures in place. We have significantly increased the number of interviewing officials at our refugee processing centers in the region so that we can resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of September.
The world is facing the greatest displacement crisis since the Second World War, and while today our focus is on the Syria crisis, the numbers and needs of refugees around the globe are growing. The UN’s September 19 summit on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants will involve all member states and aims to advance key principles around refugees, migration, and internal displacement.
The next day President Obama will convene nations that have made significant new commitments to the global refugee crisis, including those made here today. As the Secretary General said this morning, taken together, these two events, along with the World Humanitarian Summit in May, are essential milestones on our path to addressing the needs of refugees.