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USCIRF Commemorates World Refugee Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 19, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today commemorates World Refugee Day.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 60 million people are refugees or internally displaced, the highest number the agency has ever recorded.  Many of these people are fleeing religious persecution and intolerance.

Heartbreaking numbers of people have been forced to flee their homes in a desperate attempt to find safe haven, with many trapped in squalid refugee camps and war zones, or risking their lives at sea,” said USCIRF Chairman Dr. Robert P. George.  “Millions are victims of the twin evils of political tyranny and religious intolerance and persecution which have helped create the massive suffering we see today.”   

In Iraq, nearly three million people have been internally displaced due to ISIL’s offensive, with some minority religious communities facing the threat of extinction.  At least 6.5 million of Syria’s pre-civil war population now is internally displaced, and nearly four million more are refugees in neighboring states.  In Nigeria, more than one million people have fled Boko Haram, and in the Central African Republic, a million or more people have been driven from their homes due to sectarian violence; 80 percent of the country’s Muslims have fled the country.  In Burma, at least 100,000 Kachin Christians and 140,000 Rohingya Muslims remain internally displaced, with many living in squalid camps. One in ten Rohingya reportedly have fled by boat, desperately seeking, and often not finding, safe haven in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.  A record number of refugees also are attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to apply for asylum in Europe, with large numbers coming from Eritrea, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”

The United States and other governments must respond effectively, humanely, and generously to this unprecedented challenge.  While Washington has played a leading role, the U.S. government must do more, including increasing the U.S. annual refugee resettlement ceiling from 70,000 to 100,000 or more, over time, and increasing funding and logistical support to the U.N., humanitarian organizations and refugee host nations and communities.  Such actions would signal to refugees, internally displaced people and our allies that we mean to continue to be part of the solution,” said George.

USCIRF also urges the U.S. government to provide the Department of Homeland Security and other relevant federal agencies the funding and staff to help conduct background checks and process applications in a timely manner.  Furthermore, the U.S. government should work with UNHCR to quickly identify the most vulnerable individuals and families among those who have been displaced and help speed their resettlement.

For more USCIRF recommendations, see USCIRF’s 2015 Annual Report.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0613.