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US, World Powers to Focus on Refugee Crisis at UNGA

  • Pamela Dockins

The plight of refugees who are pouring into Europe is among the focal points for world leaders convening in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

On Tuesday, leaders of the seven major industrialized democracies, the so-called G7, will hold a forum on refugee and humanitarian issues.

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host a high-level meeting to discuss the crisis and appeal for a broader international response.

“I know that different governments are interested in helping to raise more funds from other countries, invite governments that have not been active on humanitarian issues to play a larger role,” said Anne Richard, the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration.

EU, US expand response

Earlier this week, European Union interior ministers approved a plan to resettle 120,000 refugees throughout the bloc.

The EU also pledged more than $1 billion to help Syrians who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

The U.S. announced it would give more than $400 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help Syrian refugees.

Also, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. would raise its refugee resettlement ceiling from the current 70,000 to 85,000 for the next fiscal year, which begins in October. He said at least 10,000 of those resettled would be Syrian refugees.

Expand response

The U.S. pledge is “not dramatic,” said Human Rights Watch refugee director Bill Frelick.

He said up until this point, the number of Syrians resettled in the U.S. since the start of Syria's civil conflict in 2011 had been relatively low.

"I think it is an increase that is overdue,” said Frelick.

Some say, while the U.S. may need to step up its efforts, there should be more help from countries that have been sitting on the sidelines during the refugee crisis.

“We can think of other countries taking in greater numbers of asylum seekers,” said Matteo Garavoglia, a Brookings Institution foreign policy analyst.

“I’m thinking of Canada. I’m thinking of Australia,” he said.

Garavoglia said the fact that asylum seekers are coming to Europe should serve as a wake-up call to Western powers to pump more money into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, three countries that have been bearing the brunt of sheltering Syrian refugees.

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