Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a U.S. and UNHCR Co-Hosted Event on the Occasion of World Refugee Day

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 15, 2021


Thank you so much, Del, for that introduction. I have to tell you, I was so honored to be invited to celebrate World Refugee Day with you. I want to welcome everyone at this event that’s celebrating “The Power of Inclusion.” It’s great to be joined by my good friend Filippo – hello, Filippo – and I’m excited to hear from and speak to Abdullah, and Bahti, and Daniella during our panel, today.

As you just heard from Del, refugee and humanitarian issues are a life-long passion of mine. So, I circled this date on my calendar many months ago when I arrived in New York and have been looking forward to it ever since. When I was being confirmed by the Senate, I noted that supporting and protecting refugees would be one of my top priorities. And since the day I arrived, I’ve put the humanitarian needs at the center of my work and my advocacy as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Refugee inclusion and humanitarian values are also at the core of who we are as Americans – one of so many reasons we have a deep and enduring relationship with the UN Refugee Agency and the life-changing work that UNHCR does.

I’m proud to say that President Biden has acted from day one to ensure the United States remains a country committed to providing safety for the most vulnerable. The President issues Executive Orders to rebuild and enhance the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, and spoken about how the we must stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge for the world. Two weeks ago, I traveled to Turkey to bring attention to the humanitarian emergency inside of Syria. Right now, the UN Security Council is debating whether to renew a resolution that allows for UN humanitarian agencies to bring lifesaving aid to Syrians in need.

After ten years of war, Syria is the world’s largest refugee crisis. There are now 6.6 million – 6.6. million – Syrian refugees, each with their own story and a dream for a safer home, a safer life. During the trip, I visited the Turkey-Syria border crossing of Bab al Hawa and I had the privilege of hearing some of these stories from refugee women firsthand – stories of starvation, stories of bombings and bullets and terror. And when I asked about the rampant COVID in the region, the response broke my heart, and I’ve shared that broadly with so many people over the course of the past couple of weeks. It was just, one of the things that they said in their words, “it was just another reason to die.” The idea that we would allow more suffering in a region looking to the international community for solidarity and hope is just gut-wrenching. And this isn’t a complicated issue for the Security Council. Let me just say, we need to allow the United Nations to deliver aid to people in need.

So, as we celebrate the power of inclusion and honor refugees on June 20th, let’s remember the millions of Syrians who desperately, desperately need our help. They – and millions of others around the world – are counting on us. They’re counting on us for lifesaving support, they’re counting on our common humanity to extend hands in their time of vulnerability and their time of need.

So, let me thank all of you, and I look forward to our discussion.