Statement by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on World Refugee Day

United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
For Immediate Release
June 18, 2021

Statement by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on World Refugee Day

On June 20, we join people around the world in commemorating World Refugee Day. For 20 years, this day has served as an opportunity to recognize the resilience and courage of refugees in the face of overwhelming obstacles, honor the dedication of those who work tirelessly to help them, and celebrate our shared humanity.

Persecution, war, and violence have forced more than 82 million people around the world to leave their homes in search of safety, more than 26 million of whom are refugees. Over the past month, I had the privilege of meeting Venezuelan refugees in Ecuador and Syrian refugees in Turkey. With the help of their generous host countries, many refugees have been able to integrate into society, open their own businesses, and settle into a new life. This week, I met with UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi and three former refugees to discuss the power of inclusion. While stories of turning grief to prosperity and hope for the future are truly inspiring, we cannot overlook the countless refugees worldwide who remain in desperate and dangerous situations, including persons with disabilities who are often unable to access aid or are simply left behind when others flee.

COVID-19 has exacerbated conditions for millions of refugees and displaced persons. During my recent trip to Turkey’s border with Syria, I met brave aid workers who have been working around the clock to deliver relief to Syrians in need. The pandemic has made their jobs more difficult, more dangerous, and more necessary over this past year. This is why the United States is deeply committed to ensuring both refugees and humanitarian workers are included in global vaccine distribution plans. As President Biden recently announced, some of the United States’ first donated vaccines will go directly to UN frontline workers. This is part of President Biden’s commitment of more than 580 million doses of vaccine worldwide, and it comes in addition to $2 billion already contributed to COVAX this year to get life-saving vaccines out to healthcare workers and vulnerable populations around the world.

The United States is proud to be the largest donor of vital assistance worldwide, having provided more than $10.5 billion in humanitarian aid globally in Fiscal Year 2020, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to restoring America’s promise to protect the world’s most vulnerable, including refugees, stateless persons, conflict victims, and other forcibly displaced persons. The United States is raising the cap on the United States Refugee Admission Program, with the intent to support up to 125,000 admissions in FY 2022, which demonstrates our dedication to once again be a world leader in giving refuge to those fleeing oppression.

The international community cannot be idle in the face of immeasurable suffering. We urge donor countries to continue to fund humanitarian crisis responses around the world, and we call on other countries to increase opportunities for refugee resettlement and local integration.

Resettling refugees reunites families, enriches the fabric of our countries, and promotes national security. Millions are counting on us to extend our hands in their time of vulnerability and need. This World Refugee Day, let us join together in search of more inclusive solutions to displacement and lasting resolutions to the conflicts that drive it.