Migration & Refugee Assistance

FY2018 Funding Recommendation:  
$3.604 billion


Funding History


       House/Senate FY2017 Request*   

       InterAction's FY2018 Recommendation

*Includes FY2017 Continuing Resolution Increase

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 Key Facts

  • UNHCR estimates that as of the end of 2015 the number of forcibly-displaced people was the highest in recorded history: 65.3 million people, including 21.3 million refugees; and the numbers for 2016, when available, will likely be even higher.

  • 6.7 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 2015 the number of forcibly-displaced people was the highest in recorded history: 65.3 million people, including 21.3 million refugees. The numbers for 2016, 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 6.7 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. A 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 and elsewhere 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)

In recent 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, as well as international peacekeeping: International Disaster Assistance (IDA), Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA), Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA), and Peacekeeping Operations (PKO). OCO was created to house temporary spending related to operations and programs in frontline states. From FY2015 to FY2017, OCO accounted for over 70% of appropriated IDA, MRA, CIPA, and PKO funding.

These funds are critical to allow the U.S. to respond to crises. However, InterAction and its members are concerned that locating such a high proportion of spending in a temporary account puts humanitarian and peacekeeping funding levels at risk as Congress and the new administration reconcile various views on OCO. This is particularly concerning because 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 protect and maintain total funding for the foreign assistance budget, including humanitarian and peacekeeping accounts. This funding is critical to saving millions of lives and advances U.S. interests overseas.

Success Story

Farming in the Desert of Mauritania

Ali agd Forach, a refugee from Mali, has learned how to make vegetables sprout from the sands of the Sahara.

Forach is one of 52,000 refugees who fled conflict in Mali and has been living in Mberra refugee camp, Mauritania, since 2012. “When I arrived there was nothing here,” Forach recalls. “From here to the horizon only hills of sand.”

Now, he grows peanuts and watermelons. Forach is one of 5,000 people who have learned new horticultural and irrigation techniques for farming in the Sahel in a farmer-to-farmer project funded by U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The project is being carried out by Lutheran World Relief and its partner, the Lutheran World Federation.

“It was quite difficult to convince people that they could grow vegetables here,” recalls project coordinator Papa Diallo. During the day, the temperature climbs to 50 degrees Celsius. Hot winds, frequent sandstorms, and sudden, heavy rain can destroy many months’ work within minutes.

The Malian Refugee & Host Communities’ Livelihoods project has a curriculum that includes preparing nurseries, seedling production, organic fertilization, cultivation and techniques such as drip-to-drip-irrigation that make the most of the meager water reserves in the Sahel.

The project targets 5,000 people from the camp and the host community. This includes 4,134 women, reflecting the traditional division of labor and the population in the camp. A select 200 of them received special gardening training. Each of those 200 people are sharing what they learned in groups of 25 people.

Where there was sand before, 76 acres of plots have sprung up in the camp and surrounding villages. “We now have more vegetables available, and since more people are selling them, the price in the market has dropped,” Tassayate ub Med says. Her family’s situation has improved a great deal. Previously, they spent about $3 for a meal; now it’s only $1.

Living in Mberra is a big change for the refugees. Back in Mali, many were nomadic pastoralists. Some brought their cattle and goats with them when they fled. But in Mberra, hardly enough water and grazing grounds exist for the local host community.

Teaching gardening techniques has minimized conflicts with the host community. The addition of vegetables has also improved the nutritional value of the refugees’ traditional diet, while others sell their vegetables to buy meat.

Forach hopes to continue using the techniques he’s learned when he is able to return to his homeland. “I plan to rebuild my life in Mali,” he says. “I will bring what I have learned here and share it with others if I can. I am a farmer. I don’t want to do anything else.”

Photo: Lutheran World Relief/MARCOL

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