The PRM QuarterlyLetter from Assistant Secretary Julia Taft
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
U.S. Department of State, July 5, 1999
Dear Friend of PRM:
Our informal Quarterly provides a snapshot of Bureau highlights and activities, for the previous 3 months. We didn't send one out for the first three months of this year, however. Kosovo erupted as the letter was in draft, and events moved so quickly that we held off issuing that edition. This Quarterly-Plus, then, is a little longer than normal and covers the period from January through June.
As I write this, the return of refugees to Kosovo continues apace. Milosevic's persecution affected approximately 1.5 million people, including refugees and those displaced within the province. NATO's resolve stopped this terror, and the work of international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and governments--including our own--helped meet the basic needs of these victims. In handling the massive outflows of refugees, the humanitarian community can claim a job well done. With the generous funding of many donors, a broad network of UN agencies, and international and non-governmental organizations received waves of refugees, provided them sanctuary and basic services, and now is helping both refugees and internally displaced return to their homes to rebuild their lives. Macedonia and Albania stepped up and did their part, too. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees--UNHCR--is leading the international effort to focus on returns and rebuilding, a major challenge for the international community that will involve months and plenty of resources.
To ensure intergovernmental coordination at the outset of the crisis, the President created the U.S. Government Humanitarian Coordination Council, chaired by USAID Administrator J. Brian Atwood and including myself, FEMA Director James Lee Witt, and Department of Defense's Lt. Gen. Mike McDuffie. Since the crisis began in Kosovo in early 1998, the U.S. Government--USAID, PRM, and DoD--has provided almost $230 million for the humanitarian needs of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons--IDP.
PRM itself channeled almost one third--$82.5 million--of that amount to relief agencies. We are now beginning to program another $266 million for Kosovo provided in the recent emergency supplemental approved by Congress. The Congress also provided $165 million to replenish the President's Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance--ERMA--fund, which had been drawn down several times since last fall to meet the humanitarian needs of Kosovo.
One big challenge handed PRM's Admissions Office was the Administration's decision to provide refuge to some 20,000 Kosovar Albanians. The effort focused primarily on refugees in Macedonia with family ties to the U.S. or who otherwise were in vulnerable circumstances. Like other nations, we were responding to the UNHCR's call to relieve pressure on tiny Macedonia. The Vice President announced our program on April 21; on May 5, the first planeload of refugees arrived at Fort Dix, NJ.
Meanwhile, working with the dedicated staffs of the International Organization for Migration--IOM--and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, we organized a refugee processing facility between the Stenkovec camps outside Skopje. As the flights to Fort Dix proceeded, we steadily moved fully processed refugees on commercial or charter flights to New York City. By the first week of June, all Kosovar refugees who entered the U.S. did so fully processed and able to proceed to their final destinations, thus bypassing Fort Dix. As of today, only a few hundred refugees remain at Fort Dix, and they should be resettled by mid-July.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Marguerite Houze joined the First Lady and other dignitaries in greeting the first Kosovar refugees to arrive at Fort Dix. She also met the first group to arrive in New York City a few days later. I visited the military post in June with Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner. Fort Dix proved a model refugee transit facility. The Department of Health and Human Services, DoD, the INS, and the voluntary agencies deserve our thanks for their contributions to the resettlement effort.
With UNHCR's decision to begin organized returns to parts of Kosovo in late June, it suspended the Humanitarian Evacuation Program of refugees from Macedonia to third countries. To date, we have admitted 9,372 refugees to the U.S. A few thousand more have been approved to travel, but in light of events it's unclear exactly how many of those will come here. Now we are looking at helping the Kosovar refugees in the U.S. return to their homes--when it's safe and practical to do so. We expect to provide more detailed information on this return effort in the days ahead.
The Kosovo crisis, and especially our commitment to provide refuge for up to 20,000 refugees, seized much of the media's attention. As the footage of refugees streaming out of Kosovo or landing at Fort Dix filled the nation's television screens, PRM found itself showered by reporters' inquiries. PRM staff provided background and on-the-record explanations on everything from nuances of refugee policy and the annual admissions program to the definition of Humanitarian Daily Ration--HDR--and IDPs. Wags in the Bureau joked that PRM now means Population, Refugees, and Media.
Our Population staff has just completed the 5-year review of efforts made to implement the 20-year Program of Action adopted by 179 nations at the UN International Conference on Population and Development--ICPD--in Cairo, Egypt in 1994. First Lady Hillary Clinton spoke at the first ICPD+5 session at The Hague in February. Frank Loy, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, led our delegation to the Special Session on ICPD+5 of the UN General Assembly, June 30-July 2. The document adopted at the Special Session is drawn on countries' individual experience and efforts since 1994.
It is a comprehensive, well balanced, and specific set of steps to help all countries further implement the Program of Action. Among other things, the document:
Regional Conference on Migration:
INS Commissioner Meissner joined me for the Regional Conference on Migration in El Salvador, January 26-29. The RCM consists of the 10 countries of Central and North America. Following the devastation in Central America by Hurricane Mitch, this year's session focused on the consequences of the hurricane on migration.
As a result of our participation in RCM, PRM provided $370,000 this year for a one-time migration return project in El Salvador, helping returnees and deportees reintegrate in their society. We also provided $233,000 to fund a public information campaign in Costa Rica complementing an amnesty program benefiting Central Americans living there. Before heading to Macedonia and Albania, Deputy Assistant Secretary Houze went to Argentina in June to consult with government officials interested in possibly replicating the RCM process in South America.
The Royal Thai Government also organized a migration symposium in April for East Asian and Pacific nations. The event focused on regularizing "irregular"migration and combating trafficking in human beings. PRM participated and provided an overview of the North American experience with Regional Conferences.
The FY 2000 Budget:
I testified in March on the Hill about the Administration's FY 2000 budget request. We're asking for $660 million for the Migration and Refugee Assistance--MRA--account and $30 million to replenish the President's Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance--ERMA--fund. This request was made before hostilities began in Kosovo and did not include funds for Kosovo. Thus, the additional funding provided by Congress in the Kosovo supplemental appropriation in no way diminishes the need for full funding of the Administration's FY 2000 MRA request to ensure adequate resources for refugee programs in other parts of the world.
We told the Congress in March that we planned to admit up to 80,000 refugees in the U.S. in FY 2000. In light of Kosovo, however, we are taking a second look at whether this number remains valid. Our FY 1999 admissions level is up to 78,000 (75,000 funded), and to date we have admitted 46,000. With the additions from Kosovo, and after emergency consultations with Congress, we expect to reach 82,000 by the end of the fiscal year.
The successful Resettlement Opportunity for Vietnamese Returnees--ROVR--processing from Vietnam has exceeded our original planning and we have reprogrammed the regional allocation to ensure we can process the applicants this fiscal year. Shortfalls are anticipated in both the Bosnia and Former Soviet Union programs.
Afghan Support Group:
Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary Alan Kreczko led the U.S. delegation to the Afghan Support Group meeting in Stockholm June 21-22. This was the fifth semi-annual gathering. The U.S. and United Kingdom were somewhat isolated by our continued policy against expatriates working in international organizations in Afghanistan, reflecting security concerns. PRM continues to fund NGO humanitarian efforts and, through generous Department of Agriculture contributions to the World Food Program, bakeries remain functioning in Kabul.
Other Items of Interest:
We hope you find these Quarterly updates useful. Best regards.
Julia V. Taft
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