Recognising the world’s most vulnerable people

It is critical we recognise and support the world’s most vulnerable people on World Refugee Day, and on every day of the year

The United States appreciates and applauds actors in other countries – ranging from national governments to local communities – currently making critical contributions to support the world’s refugees, even in situations where their own resources are already scarce
The United States appreciates and applauds actors in other countries – ranging from national governments to local communities – currently making critical contributions to support the world’s refugees, even in situations where their own resources are already scarce

Every year on World Refugee Day, we commemorate the bravery, resilience and endurance of millions of refugees and express our support for the people around the world who are forced to flee their homes. The United States, like many other countries, has grown based on the contributions of refugees who have enriched our culture and society. Their struggle for acceptance, to improve their lives and the fabric of our country, is a journey that continues today. 

The United States remains the largest single country provider of humanitarian assistance for refugees worldwide.  In 2019, the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was more than $1.6 billion. U.S. humanitarian assistance reaches tens of millions of displaced and vulnerable people worldwide and provides food, shelter, healthcare, access to clean water, education, livelihoods, child protection programmes, women’s protection and empowerment activities, and more.  This commitment to the world’s most vulnerable individuals remains a critical part of U.S. national security policy. 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a horrific impact on the entire world. Among the most at-risk groups are the refugees and asylum seekers, who may not have access to healthcare or to economic benefits. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the U.S. government has continued to demonstrate its solidarity in the global pandemic response by committing more than $900 million in State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) emergency health, humanitarian, economic, and development assistance specifically aimed at helping governments, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to fight COVID-19.  We provided nearly $160 million in humanitarian assistance to help international organisations and NGO partners address challenges posed by the pandemic to refugees, internally displaced persons, and host communities, as well as other vulnerable persons.

The United States appreciates and applauds actors in other countries – ranging from national governments to local communities – currently making critical contributions to support the world’s refugees, even in situations where their own resources are already scarce.

Malta does far more than its fair share per capita. According to UNHCR reports, 3,406 people rescued at sea disembarked in Malta in 2019, the highest number of arrivals since 2009. From January to April this year, an additional 1,201 people attempting to cross from Libya to Europe disembarked in Malta. Many of these have requested asylum as refugees under the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1951. Eurostat reported that in 2019 Malta had 8,108 first-time asylum applicants per million. This makes Malta the member state with the second highest number of first-time applicants out of the entire EU, with only Cyprus recording higher numbers.

Malta sits strategically on the Southern Flank of Europe and European security, giving many others an interest in seeing Malta succeed. As one of the countries on the front lines of the migration crisis, Malta deserves solidarity in supporting those who risk their lives crossing the Central Mediterranean. The United States has taken in 3,373 out of the 5,142 irregular migrants resettled from Malta since 2005, the most out of any country. We also support initiatives that offer tangible support and resources to address the root causes of the migration crisis in origin countries, as well as work with partners to prevent tragic loss of life at sea.  

We know from our own experience in the United States how difficult it is to manage legal migration and asylum seeking. The Maltese government has demonstrated its commitment to promoting the integration of refugees and asylum seekers who make Malta their home. The Migrant Integration Strategy and Action Plan (Vision 2020) provides for a stronger framework for integration of migrants already working, living, and sending their children to school in Malta.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also play a key role in bridging the gap among communities by developing, promoting, and advocating for the values of human dignity and equality. 

Refugees and asylum seekers are a vital part of Malta’s economy. They have started their own businesses and many are employed in various sectors, including the construction and tourism sectors, paying taxes and social security.  They played a crucial role during Malta’s economic boom and will play a crucial role in Malta’s economic recovery following COVID-19.

My colleagues and I are committed to assisting the Maltese government and the local NGOs that operate in the human rights sector.  In 2018, we awarded a Julia Taft Refugee Fund grant to KOPIN, which allowed KOPIN to study the incidence of human trafficking in Malta and its impact on refugees, and in 2019 we awarded the grant to Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) to consolidate its efforts to address the barriers faced by asylum seekers in finding and retaining legal and stable employment in Malta.

We are also working with JRS Malta to implement the #Change project in local schools. The programme fosters critical thinking skills among young people on the positive contribution of refugees and asylum-seekers to society by creating personal encounters in classrooms and supporting them to take action that will raise awareness among their peers.  We worked with the Peace Lab and One Radio Malta to promote the value of diversity through music, telling the story of African Americans’ contribution to U.S. culture and music through ‘Connect Africa’ and then ‘American Beat’.

In the coming months, we will work with the Migrant Women’s Association Malta (MWAM) on a project to assist female refugees and asylum-seekers, who require increased mental health and financial support due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We previously partnered with MWAM through a Julia Taft Refugee Fund grant in 2017 to address gender-based violence among female refugees and asylum-seekers. We are also working with the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) and the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) on a project that will examine U.S. experiences of refugee integration, and inform Malta’s response and capacity for its own reception centres.

Empowering refugees and those fleeing conflict and oppression to build new lives and find acceptance will take time and cooperation.  The United States stands ready to work with partners across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to address the root causes of refugee flight, to provide for those forced to flee, and to search for innovative solutions to the problems we all face. 

Working together, we can address the immediate human needs of refugees while seeking durable long-term solutions.  It is critical we recognise and support the world’s most vulnerable people today on World Refugee Day, and on every day of the year.

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