By Esther Lee
June 20, 2017
The Trump administration’s statements on World Refugee Day are the epitome of hypocrisy.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of State put out a short statement stressing the country’s financial commitment towards humanitarian assistance. The statement also called the United States a “leader in supporting refugees.”
“The overwhelming majority of refugees want to go home to help rebuild their societies once the violence has stopped,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in his statement. “As the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance the United States is a leader in supporting refugees and addressing causes of forced displacement.”
In a more personalized statement, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said her role as both a wife and mother has made her understand that Syrian parents want safety for their children. She later stressed refugees and host countries “can continue to count on the United States to lead.”
“The United States gives more humanitarian aid than any other country, but money alone is not enough — we must also work to end the conflicts that drive these people from their homes, while tearing apart their countries,” Ambassador Haley said in her statement. “We have lots of work to do at the UN, but the world’s refugees and the countries that host them should know they can continue to count on the United States to lead.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump has yet to release a public statement on World Refugee Day, like former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took an “America First” approach during a press conference, saying the White House would work to create “safe zones” for refugees to safely return. But Spicer emphasized President Donald Trump’s “number-one goal” is “to make sure that people coming into this country are doing so through peaceful means.”
It’s true that the United States gives more humanitarian aid toward refugee assistance than any other county, making it the top donor. But the Trump administration’s public statements don’t fully reveal how the country has otherwise forcefully rejected attempts to help refugees through other forms of assistance and are now asking the rest of the world to take care of vulnerable populations.
Just one week after Trump took office, he signed a controversial executive order stopping both travel from some countries with predominantly Muslim populations and suspending the entire refugee resettlement program for 120 days. That executive order, and a second, revised executive order, aimed to “realign,” or cut the number of refugee admissions into the United States to 50,000 people from the 110,000 designation set by former President Obama.
In May, the Trump administration submitted to Congress the 2018 fiscal year budget, which cut refugee resettlement funding by 11 percent. At the time, Hari Sastry, the Department of State Director at the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources, said the United States would “refocus our efforts into those areas that are closely aligned with the President’s priorities and also asking the rest of the world to step up and do a little bit more than they have in the past.”
Currently, 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, with 22 million people registered as refugees in a host country. The sheer number of people on the run has meant that there are now more people displaced than after World War II.
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