U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Samuel Witten met with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR's Executive Committee and other officials in Geneva, Switzerland in early October to review international refugee programs.
"Refugee protection is an obligation, not a choice," Acting Assisting Secretary Witten told the Executive Committee October 6.
"UNHCR is undergoing numerous reform efforts that the U.S. strongly supports including such issues as outposting [moving back-office functions, such as payroll and other human resources activities to Budapest], regionalization and decentralization, budget restructuring, and a new global needs assessment initiative," he said.
Reviewing U.S. refugee assistance efforts between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008, Mr. Witten noted that the U.S. government contributed a total of $1.44 billion to help refugees, conflict victims, stateless persons and vulnerable migrants around the world. The U.S. also funded both international and non-governmental organizations working to improve the lives of these populations of concern.
With respect to the resettlement of refugees in the United States, in our fiscal year 2008, from October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008, over 60 thousand refugees were resettled, the highest number in recent years. The U.S. expects to resettle even more refugees in the coming year. The U.S. admitted more than 13,000 Iraqis during fiscal year 2008 and anticipates admitting at least 17,000 other during the next fiscal year.
The U.S. government's Special Immigration Visa Program can potentially admit a large number of Iraqis who meet the requirements of U.S. law. The U.S. has provided about 175 million dollars for UNHCR’s regional programs for Iraqi refugees.
"The Iraqis whom we're resettling are a part of a much bigger picture," said Acting Assisting Secretary Witten. "The U.S. is providing and expects to provide assistance in 3 different ways to Iraqi refugees," he said.
The greatest number of refugees will be helped through our assistance through the U.N. and through other organizations and non-governmental organizations, for those Iraqi who are in the neighboring countries hoping to return to Iraq. The second category of assistance is resettlement. And finally, the U.S. will provide assistance for returns to Iraq.
"The United States," said Acting Assisting Secretary Witten, remains a steadfast and committed partner with UNHCR."