On World Refugee Day, Co-Chairs Say 'More Must Be Done'
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen James P. McGovern and Joseph R. Pitts, Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, issued the following statement to mark World Refugee Day, observed on June 20th of every year to raise awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world.
“Today the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released its latest report, Global Trends - Forced Displacement in 2015. In 2015, an estimated 12.4 million persons were newly displaced due to conflict, persecution, generalized violence or human rights violations. This includes 8.6 million individuals displaced within the borders of their own country, 2 million new asylum seekers, and 1.8 million new refugees. These are stunningly high figures that brought the total number of forcibly displaced people around the world to 65.3 million, including 21.3 million refugees, by the end of last year – nearly 6 million more than at the end of 2014.
“It is no surprise that the largest number of refugees – 4.9 million—came from Syria, followed by Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Somalia (1.1 million). Additional refugees have fled new or reignited conflicts in Africa and the Middle East – including Burundi, Iraq, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Yemen. Many of these conflicts do not receive much public attention in the United States, but all pose deadly risks for local civilian populations.
“Even more heartbreaking is the fact that now nearly half of refugees are children younger than 18 years of age.
“It is important to say that the United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in absolute dollars in the world, and in 2015 accepted the largest number of refugees for resettlement of any country, 66,500, as well as 172,700 asylum applicants, second only to Germany.
“But we must also recognize that these numbers pale in comparison with the dimension of the problem. Turkey today is hosting 2.5 million refugees and Lebanon another 1.1 million. These numbers are unsustainable.
“The international community, including the United States, must re-double its efforts to bring to an end the political and armed conflicts that are forcing so many people to abandon their homes and livelihoods. As much as we are contributing to humanitarian assistance and resettlement, more must be done. And we must help our fellow citizens remember the great contributions that refugees have made to our own country, from Albert Einstein to Raphael Lemkin to Madeline Albright. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said, ‘what we are seeing today is not a crisis of numbers, but a crisis of solidarity. We all must do more.’”