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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/02/22 TESTIMONY: BRUNSON MCKINLEY ON
REFUGEE/MIGRATION/POPULATION BUREAU OF POPULATION, REFUGEES, AND
Ambassador Brunson McKinley Acting Assistant Secretary Bureau of
Population, Refugees, and Migration February 22, 1995 Before the House
International Relations Committee Subcommittee on International
Operations and Human Rights
FEBRUARY 22, 1995
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate this
opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the work being done by the
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), our objectives and
strategies, and our assessment of the resources we will need to do our work
in FY 1996.
Refugee, migration, and population issues are front and center on the current
foreign policy agenda. It is difficult to name a major crisis where there is
not a refugee or migration element -- Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, Chechnya. The
task before us is to deal with the legacies of the past and, at the same time,
address the issues of the future.
Ten years ago, there were approximately 8 million refugees worldwide;
today there are over 23 million persons of concern to UNHCR. A further
estimated 24 million people have been internally displaced by violence,
persecution, poverty, and environmental degradation. Adding these numbers
together means that, in a world population of 5.6 billion, roughly one out of
every 130 people has been forced into flight. Another 100 million people
live outside their countries of origin. Mass migration has become in the late
twentieth century one of the defining features of the economic, political,
and social landscapes. The Secretary of State put it well in a recent speech.
He said problems that once seemed distant, like environmental degradation,
unsustainable population growth, and mass movements of refugees, now pose
immediate risks to emerging democracies and to global prosperity.
Successful repatriation efforts in Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and
Latin America have done little to stem the steady rise in these numbers due
to internal conflicts and the breakdown of societal order from Bosnia to
Rwanda and from Chechnya to Sierra Leone.
The protection and care of refugees and conflict victims are properly shared
international responsibilities. Accordingly, most of our work is conducted
through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee
of the Red Cross, and the International Organization for Migration. We also
are assisted by a number of private non-governmental organizations. The
paramount objective in refugee crises is the resolution of conflicts to allow
the safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees to their homelands. Until this is
possible, however, our policy is to support multilateral assistance and
protection to refugees in their countries of asylum.
We recognize that permanent resettlement, while an appropriate and
important option for some, is not a realistic alternative for the large
majority of the world's refugees. They need assistance and protection, as
well as solutions that ultimately allow them to return to their homes.
We face many challenges; we also have a clear imperative to carefully
manage the resources Congress has entrusted to us. We are requesting $671
million in FY 1996 to fund refugee and migration program activities. This is
the same amount appropriated in FY 1995. However, projected savings in the
admissions program will allow us to shift resources to increase assistance
contributions for the care and protection of refugees and conflict victims.
Mr. Chairman, this Administration will use these funds to concentrate our
efforts on four priority areas:
-- the protection and care for refugees; -- the improvement in the
international community's ability to respond quickly and appropriately to
complex humanitarian emergencies; -- the pursuit of "durable solutions" --
of which voluntary repatriation is the preferred option; and -- the
continuation of diplomatic efforts to support orderly, controlled migration
worldwide and to encourage fair, humanitarian treatment of refugees and
asylum seekers, even as we strengthen efforts to prevent illegal migration.
In FY 1996 we have requested $452.7 million for international refugee
assistance. This is an increase of $31.7 million over FY 1995 and represents
two-thirds of our total request. The primary focus of overseas assistance
funds will continue to be the basic care and maintenance needs of refugees
and conflict victims overseas. These funds will be used to support relief
operations for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as well as for many
countries, such as Liberia, whose refugee tragedies no longer make the front
Most of the funds programmed by PRM for projects in the former Yugoslavia
have gone to support international organizations in their efforts to meet the
primary needs -- food and shelter -- of refugees, conflict victims, and
displaced persons. UNHCR is assisting over 2.2 million persons.
Additionally, we have funded programs providing medical assistance to
vulnerable groups. A withdrawal of the UN Protection Forces from Croatia
and, possibly Bosnia, may have dramatic consequences for the delivery of
humanitarian assistance to many people who still remain dependent on such
aid. Likewise, an increase in the level of fighting in Bosnia or a renewal of
fighting elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia would place enormous burdens
on the humanitarian assistance infrastructure.
In Chechnya thousands have been killed and wounded and some 450,000
persons are now displaced. Over the past several weeks, we have received
appeals from the UN and international organizations totalling some $67
million and the President has announced a U.S. response of $20 million.
Africa harbors more than six million refugees and the largest share of the
world's internally displaced. The needs there remain enormous. At the
beginning of 1995, over two million persons from Rwanda and Burundi were
displaced. The cost to all multilateral relief agencies of continuing to
assist refugees and internally displaced persons in the countries affected by
the crisis is estimated at $600 million for this year alone. An estimated 1.2
million refugees are registered in the Horn of Africa, with the largest
numbers from Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. The number of Sudanese
refugees continues to grow. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, sporadic fighting
continues, making it unsafe for some three million refugees and displaced
persons to return home.
The Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese Refugees (CPA) has been
successful in resolving the problem of Vietnamese and Laotian refugees and
asylum-seekers. Since the beginning of the CPA in 1989, more than 83,500
persons have been resettled in third countries from first asylum camps in
Southeast Asia and Hong Kong and 70,000 have returned voluntarily to their
home countries. We anticipate CPA funded activities in first asylum camps
will be completed by the end of 1995, but we are prepared to continue into
1996 appropriate support of UNHCR's activities to ensure successful and
humane conclusion to the CPA. In addition, voluntary repatriation programs
and reintegration assistance inside Vietnam will continue through 1996. The
CPA, together with a continuing high level of direct safe departures from
Vietnam under the Orderly Departure Program, has significantly reduced
pressure on first asylum countries in the region. We will continue to
monitor this process to ensure that it goes smoothly.
We are also engaged in providing assistance through UNHCR to the Burmese
Muslims known as Rohingyas. Some 150,000 have voluntarily repatriated to
Burma, leaving 100,000 in camps in Bangladesh. In Thailand we are working
closely with various non-governmental organizations, and in coordination
with the Thai government to assist some 80,000 Burmese refugees in camps
along the border.
Although 2.5 million Afghans have returned home since 1992, repatriation
numbers dropped sharply last year due to unsettled conditions and uncertain
economic prospects inside Afghanistan. Some 3 million Afghans still remain
abroad. Within Afghanistan, some 600,000 Afghans are displaced as a result
of recent factional fighting. The flow of Bhutanese refugees into eastern
Nepal continues, although at greatly diminished levels.
Near East and North Africa
The focus in this region continues to be on longstanding Palestinian refugee
populations in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria who are
assisted by programs administered by the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency. The Bureau also supports resettlement activities in Israel from
other countries. Through a grant to the United Israel Appeal these funds are
used to provide transportation, care and maintenance, and temporary
accommodation to migrants upon arrival in Israel.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, a great deal of effort in 1994 was devoted to
curbing unsafe departures by sea from Haiti and Cuba. Emigration has long
been a feature of Haitian life, spurred by poverty and decades of
dictatorship. The coup and subsequent repression dramatically exacerbated
this problem. However, under President Clinton's policies, we were able to
provide temporary refuge for those in need, while we worked to bring about
the political solution in Haiti. During 1994 approximately 15,000 Haitians
elected to return voluntarily to Haiti from safe haven at Guantanamo, of
whom approximately 6,000 returned after the restoration of President
Aristide in the fall. Only a few hundred remain at Guantanamo.
To deal with the outpouring of Cuban rafters last summer, we employed the
same mechanism developed for the Haitian crisis -- safehavens to provide
temporary protection and assistance. We have constructed camps, engaged
NGOs to provide social services, and developed mechanisms for voluntary
repatriation. Believing that uncontrolled, illegal immigration to the U.S. is
damaging to our country, we used other foreign policy instruments to resolve
this crisis. The outcome, as you know, was an agreement which directed
Cuban migration to the United States into safe, legal, and orderly channels.
We support orderly migration from Cuba in cases of family reunification,
fear of persecution, and for other aspiring migrants so that lives are not put
at risk by unsafe departures. We are arranging to close by March 6 the
Panama safe haven. Where appropriate, the Attorney General will continue to
authorize humanitarian parole into the U.S. for certain cases --
unaccompanied minors, chronically ill persons, migrants over 70, and
children at risk and their family members. Only those with financial
sponsors in the U.S. are presently being paroled. We continue to seek
resettlement opportunities for Cubans in third countries. To date, 120
Cubans have been resettled in Spain and Venezuela.
Barring any unforeseen emergencies, we anticipate a decline in the number
of refugees admitted to the U.S. on a yearly basis. Over the last two years
U.S. refugee admissions have decreased by approximately 10 percent annually
and we are projecting a further 20 percent reduction -- to 90,000 -- in FY
The two largest programs, those of the former Soviet Union and Vietnam, are
declining. In the case of the Vietnamese and Lao, we anticipate resettling
the remaining caseload from Southeast Asian first-asylum countries in FY
1995, although there may be a continuing need for modest resettlement of
Lao highlander cases in FY 1996. In the Orderly Departure Program, we
expect to complete the great majority of the former reeducation center
detainees and Amerasians in 1996.
Admissions from the former Soviet Union are expected to continue for the
next few years, but with decreasing needs. While religious freedom is
improving in the states of the former Soviet Union, rising nationalism and
ethnic tensions contribute to an uncertain situation for religious and ethnic
minorities. The United States will follow this closely.
As these programs wind down, we will work to bring the refugee admissions
program more in line with world-wide multilateral efforts to address
In the past, the U.S. relied almost exclusively on its own resources and
interests when deciding which groups it would admit as refugees. We have
also found UNHCR to be a useful partner committed to using third-country
resettlement when other durable solutions are not available. This
collaboration benefits both parties, such as in our programs for Bosnian
refugees referred by UNHCR. Increased U.S. resettlement of UNHCR-referred
cases will allow UNHCR to meet its resettlement responsibilities more fully.
At the same time, this enhanced cooperation ensures that finite resources
will be spent on bona fide refugees.
This changing focus of the admissions program will likely diversify the
admissions caseload in the coming years.
Stabilizing world population growth is vital to long-term U.S. interests. The
size of population and the rate of growth affect the quality of public health,
opportunities for employment and the abilities of families and societies to
provide for their members. Addressing economic, political and social
factors that enhance women's access to opportunity are equally important.
While not the only factor, rapid population growth certainly contributes to
societal stress, and hence to internal conflicts and other security issues.
Our approach to population stabilization was embraced by an international
consensus at the International Conference on Population and Development
last September. Our comprehensive strategy understands the complex
context in which decisions about childbearing are made. Family planning and
development programs can work separately to slow population growth, but
they work most effectively when pursued together. We are participating in
an international effort to provide quality, voluntary family planning and
reproductive health services. Additional efforts are underway to reduce
infant and maternal mortality, and to highlight the critical role fathers play
in raising children and providing for their families when they are active
participants. Equally important are efforts to improve the economic, social,
and political condition of women, and to ensure that children are not denied
educational opportunities solely on the basis of gender.
Addressing population issues is a major component in a strategy to prevent
future crises of collapsing states, such as Rwanda. If we do not focus on
population stabilization today, we may have to confront greater disaster
relief, refugee, and migration issues tomorrow.
The State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration is
responsible for policy coordination and the diplomatic aspects of U.S.
population policy. We do not manage population programs -- that is done by
USAID -- and there are no funds for population programs included in this
That concludes my remarks. I'll be glad to take your questions.
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