US Assistant Secretary of State: All migrants deserve access to asylum procedures
The United States has provided more than 3.6 billion euros (4 billion dollars) to assist Syrian conflict victims and is reviewing resettlement applications for more than 14,000 Syrians, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard said in a telephone interview with ERR and other European journalists on Tuesday.
In light of the recent UN Refugee Agency announcement which said that the world is facing the worst migration crisis since World War II, as there are 60 million refugees and displaced people, the US Assistant Secretary of State gave a briefing on the United States position and help in the crisis, focusing mainly on Syria.
More than 220,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war and the number of Syrian refugees has surpassed four million people, in addition to 7.6 million people displaced inside Syria.
The US has provided over 3.6 billion euros in humanitarian assistance to Syrians since 2011 – more than any other single donor – to help address dire humanitarian conditions, and thousands of Syrians will be resettled to the United States in coming years.
Richard said that the world needs to make a renewed push to have people care about the Syria refugee situation. “We are going to in the coming weeks and months talk more about the fear of a lost generation of Syrian youth and children. Kids who are not in school and ought to be. And instead of being in school are working or in danger of being exploited or married off early”.
Richard told ERR that the US has not given up hope to bring peace to Syria. “We need to have a diplomatic process building on Geneva II, to bring together the combatants and to bring together those governments that have influence on the combatants to try to build peace in Syria. Unfortunately, Syria has become a more dangerous place, not a less dangerous place, over the course of the crisis. But we haven’t given up hope that there could be some kind of a negotiated solution to the crisis.”
ERR also inquired about the US position on the European Union response to refugee crisis, including the migrant quotas proposed by the European Commission.
Richard said that the US is very supportive of any actions that can help facilitate helping legitimate refugees get to safety. ”Our responsibility is very clear when it comes to people fleeing political persecution, the threat of death and war, which is to give them a hearing and consider taking them in as asylum seekers.”
Richard added that the Americans appreciate the significant contributions that Italy and Greece have made by saving thousands of migrants at sea and providing emergency shelter on land. She said that the US urges the EU to continue providing much needed support to these efforts, but also made it clear that it is really up to Europe to decide for itself on how the situation should be resolved.
The US Assistant Secretary of State also commented on Hungary's decision to build a fence along its 175 kilometer border with Serbia, to keep migrants from Syria and elsewhere away.
Richard emphasized that any measures taken by Hungary and Serbia should “comply with international obligations”. “These measures should respect human rights and provide protection and assistance to individuals fleeing violence, asylum seekers or other highly vulnerable individuals such as human trafficking victims and children who are without their parents,” she said, adding that all migrants, regardless of immigration status, deserve humane and dignified treatment and access to asylum procedures.