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U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

06/21/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/21/2024 16:33

Chair Cardin Delivers World Refugee Day Address Urging Continued U.S. and Global Support to Protect Vulnerable Populations

WASHINGTON - This week, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor to mark World Refugee Day and reiterate the importance of protecting refugees and other forcibly displaced people. During his remarks, Chair Cardin appealed to his colleagues and the international community to continue supporting programs that serve these populations.

"The long tail of conflict and crisis has left millions displaced, year after year," said Chair Cardin. "Behind every number is a story of a life uprooted. But there's also the story of courage, of resilience and hope for a brighter future - the hope of a refugee mother for her child to receive an education, the hope of a refugee woman to someday become a doctor, the hope of a family caught in the crosshairs of war to return to their homes and live in peace. Achieving this brighter future requires urgent and sustained support from the United States and the international community."

WATCH THE CHAIR'S REMARKS HERE

A copy of the Chair's remarks, as delivered, have been provided below.

Mr. President, today, on World Refugee Day, I'm here to honor the tens of millions of people worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes. World Refugee Day was first held in June of 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, and to shine a light on the needs and rights of refugees while giving voice to their aspirations. At that time, in 2001, the number of forcibly displaced persons globally was close to 20 million. Today, that number stands at 120 million people, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

This staggering figure, the highest in recorded history, means that 1.5 percent of the entire world's population has been forced to flee their homes as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or natural disasters, like drought, crop failures, or famine. In the past ten years, the number of forcibly displaced persons has more than doubled as new conflicts have arisen and long-standing crises have gone unresolved - made worse by the impacts of climate change, food insecurity, and poverty.

Of this 120 million, there are more than 31 million refugees who have crossed international borders to seek safety in another country - 31 million people who are not safe from prosecution in their own country of origin. There are more than 68 million internally displaced persons, the majority of whom are women and children, forced from their homes but still within the country's borders.

In every region of the world, we see people pushed from their homes. In Sudan, where the brutal and altogether avoidable conflict between the Rapid Support Forces and Sudan Armed Forces has forced more than nine million people to flee their homes. Without a ceasefire and sustainable peace agreement, these numbers will only continue to grow. In Ukraine, where Putin's illegal full-scale invasion has pushed nearly 10 million Ukrainians from their homes, including more than six million refugees. In Gaza, where approximately 75 percent of the population, 1.7 million people, have been displaced and displaced multiple times since last October. And in Haiti, where widespread violence has uprooted more than 360,000 people in the past year.

Even as crises fade from the headlines, the impact to people's lives do not. For nearly 14 million displaced Syrians, representing over half the country's population; to the estimated 6.5 million Afghan refugees around the world; to the more than 6 million Venezuelan refugees.

The long tail of conflict and crisis has left millions displaced, year after year. Behind every number is a story of a life uprooted. But there's also the story of courage, of resilience and hope for a brighter future - the hope of a refugee mother for her child to receive an education, the hope of a refugee woman to someday become a doctor, the hope of a family caught in the crosshairs of war to return to their homes and live in peace.

Achieving this brighter future requires urgent and sustained support from the United States and the international community. Massive cuts proposed by House colleagues to the migration and refugee assistance accounts for FY 2025 would turn our back and imperil the lives of those most at risk. That is why this day I will be introducing, along with 21 of my Senate colleagues, a resolution reaffirming the importance of promoting the safety, health, and well-being of refugees and displaced persons in the United States and around the world.

This means upholding the United States' long history of welcoming people from around the world who have been oppressed and persecuted. Our U.S. Refugee mission program, established in 1980, remains a lifesaving pillar for resettling the most vulnerable refugees. It means further tapping into the deep generosity of Americans, as demonstrated by the United States government's welcome corps, to which private citizens are supporting newly arrived refugees themselves. It means supporting host communities, particularly in low and middle-income countries, where 75% of all refugees are hosted, while advocating for refugee inclusion. It means continuing U.S. leadership by the State Department, USAID, and NGO partners in responding to displacement crises with humanitarian assistance and assuring protection for forcibly displaced persons that are at risk of gender-based violence, human trafficking, and other human rights abuses. It means working in partnership with the international community to resolve conflicts, to address climate change that is destroying lands and livelihoods, and to hold human rights abusers accountable so that people can return to their homes.

In taking these steps, we not only uplift the lives of vulnerable people around the world, we will also promote regional stability and strengthen U.S. national security. So Mr. President, on World Refugee Day, let us all join together to mitigate the causes that have forced refugees to leave their homes, and help these individuals who are displaced to have an opportunity for a peaceful future.

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