According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, last year, over 51 million people were living as refugees from war or persecution. In the past decade, most refugees came from Asia and the Pacific. But today, the Middle East and North Africa are the main regions of origin of refugees. And for the first time, there are more displaced people than after the Second World War.
That’s partly because there are more new conflicts, but the old ones are not going away, and instead are becoming chronic, said Catherine Wiesner, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration. And they’ve become more brutal.
“Civilians aren’t just getting caught in the crossfire. They are being deliberately and indiscriminately killed, as warring parties lay siege to neighborhoods, burn villages, and even target hospitals and schools,” said Deputy Secretary Wiesner.
“International humanitarian principles are being trampled. Boundaries, once honored even in wartime, have been crossed.”
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration is tasked with providing protection, easing suffering, and resolving the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world.
“Wherever uprooted people flee, we and [other] agencies strive to adapt, to identify the greatest threats and needs, and devise new ways to protect the most vulnerable refugees,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Wiesner.
This includes programs to protect them from perils commonly faced by refugees and displaced people, including gender-based violence, human trafficking and exploitation by criminals who prey on the vulnerable. The United States funds schools and recreation centers for children, as well as vocational training for youths and adults, so that whether they eventually return home, or settle in a foreign country, they will have the skills to get well-paying jobs, or start new businesses of their own.
“The best solution to mass displacement isn’t local integration or resettlement. It is not more humanitarian aid. It is addressing the root causes of the violence that drive so many people from their homes,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Wiesner.
The United States and its partners are committed to helping resolve conflicts, build democratic and just societies. Until then, we are working to safeguard refugees’ lives, and their dignity.