Migration & Refugee Assistance

FY2017 Funding Recommendation:  
$3.604 billion

 

Funding History

       Enacted   

       President's FY2017 Request   

       InterAction's FY2017 Recommendation


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Justification

 Key Facts

  • UNHCR estimates that as of the end of 2014 the number of forcibly-displaced people was the highest since the post-World War II era: 59.5 million people, including 19.5 million refugees; and the numbers for 2015, when available, will likely be even higher.

  • 6.4 million of those refugees are living in protracted crisis situations.

  • 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries with little capacity to support them.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that as of the end of 2014 the number of forcibly-displaced people was the highest since the post-World War II era: 59.5 million people, including 19.5 million refugees; and the numbers for 2015, when available, will likely be even higher. The MRA account helps meet the needs of refugees and other displaced people, whose survival depends heavily on the international humanitarian system. This account is also critical in assisting the estimated 6.4 million refugees living in protracted crisis situations, and in supporting innovative, long-term, sustainable policies that can reduce the costs of responding to emergencies.

Armed conflicts in countries around the world have forced people to flee across borders at a faster rate than ever before. An increasingly large number of refugees are fleeing the violence in Syria, straining the resources of neighboring countries and threatening to further destabilize a volatile region. This is in addition to the millions of refugees around the world caught in crises that have received less attention, such as Yemen, South Sudan, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where people still need support until they can start new lives.

Most refugees live in precarious conditions and often lack access to the most basic elements of survival: health care, safe shelter, clean water, and education. Refugees often cannot safely return home, and 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries with little capacity to support them. U.S. investment helps stabilize host nations and demonstrates our support for their efforts to shelter and provide for the most vulnerable.

The recommended funding level of $3.604 billion would ensure assistance continues in conflict-affected parts of the Middle East as well as around the world for crises that receive less attention but face similar human suffering.  These funds would also advance the protection of women and girls, internally displaced persons, victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and stateless persons.

OVERSEAS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS (OCO)

Over the past four fiscal years, Congress has provided Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds to increase the level of funding for the primary accounts used to respond to international conflicts and disasters: International Disaster Assistance (IDA) and Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA). OCO was created to house temporary spending related to operations and programs in frontline states. In both FY2015 and FY2016 appropriations legislation, OCO accounted for approximately 70% of IDA and MRA funding.

These funds are critical to allow the U.S. to respond to humanitarian crises. However, InterAction and our members are concerned that locating such a high proportion of spending in a temporary account puts humanitarian funding levels at risk as OCO funds are scheduled to decrease over time. Furthermore, we know that for many of the major humanitarian crises occurring around the world, such as Syria, there is no clear resolution in sight.

The Administration should work with Congress to incrementally move OCO humanitarian funding into the base IDA and MRA budgets. Doing so would reflect the true spending levels the U.S. has committed over the past several fiscal years to humanitarian response and ensure that a major humanitarian funding shortfall will not arise should OCO funds be eliminated or significantly reduced in future budget years.

Success Story

Community Safety Net for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Bangkok

In 2014, the Bangkok Refugee Center, an implementing arm of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, closed down, leaving thousands of asylum-seekers and refugees in Thailand’s capital without access to basic healthcare. Thailand is a not signatory to the UN Refugee Convention in 1951 nor its 1967 Protocol, so captured undocumented individuals may end up in detention centers and deported; and since employing undocumented residents is illegal in Thailand, they cannot receive medical care through conventional means, which further increases the need for medical services. In Bangkok, for example, law enforcement conduct random checks on people waiting at free shuttle service sites to find undocumented persons since many refugees cannot afford to purchase vehicles or use public transportation.

With UNHCR coordination, support from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and funding from the Migration and Refugee Assistance account, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and its International Medical Association (TIMA) have been providing outpatient and pediatric healthcare to the asylum-seekers and refugees in Bangkok since the beginning of 2015. In addition, Tzu Chi provides the patients with referrals, vision care which includes cataract surgeries, vaccinations, health, preventive education, transportation services to help those in remote areas, such as camps, to have easier access to medical services, as well as reproductive health and sex education for women and young adults, and water, sanitation and hygiene support. Since overstaying a visa is illegal, Tzu Chi also works with law enforcement to prevent the arrest and detainment of refugees seeking medical care.

The program is held once a month, each patient is treated with the utmost respect by Tzu Chi volunteer doctors and nurses. Each session involves approximately 40 interpreters speaking seven different languages, hired through the Bangkok Asylum Seeker and Refugee Assistance Network (BASRAN), to ensure that patients’ symptoms and concerns are well understood, and that each patient understands the recommendations and instructions of the medical professionals. Using BASRAN and UNHCR’s coordination and leadership, Tzu Chi provided medical aid to almost 8,000 refugees in 2015, most, if not all, of whom would not have received medical services otherwise.

Because of the increase in the number of refugees as well as their health needs, the Tzu Chi project is increasing in both scale and services provided, implementing not only psychosocial support, immunizations, and deeper vision services, but also medical outreach to further expand access to care for those living in remote and hard to reach areas.

Photo: Tzu Chi Foundation

 

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