HTML _ IB89150 - Refugee Assistance in the Foreign Aid Bill: Problems and Prospects
14-Nov-2000; Lois B. McHugh; 7 p.

Abstract: The United States is the largest national contributor to international humanitarian assistance programs for refugees. Traditionally, we contribute to refugee appeals both because of our wish to alleviate the suffering of innocent victims and out of concern that refugee flows can lead to instability in countries or regions important to U.S. foreign policy interests. The United States is also the largest resettlement country, resettling refugees who cannot return to their homes and qualify to be resettled in the United States. The money for humanitarian assistance and some of the costs of resettlement in the United States is authorized in the Migration and Refugee Account (MRA) of the Department of State Authorization bill and appropriated in the Foreign Assistance Appropriations bill. (The overwhelming bulk of assistance for refugees who resettle in the United States is authorized and appropriated in the Labor, HHS, legislation.) This issue brief discusses the size of the U.S. international refugee assistance budget and its allocation between humanitarian assistance and admissions. With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. refugee policy began to evolve from its nearly exclusive anti-communist focus to a new focus that is still emerging. At the same time, nations no longer constrained by superpower politics began to implode with internal domestic disputes. These new conditions have led to a change in the nature of refugee emergencies and changes in the types of programs which the United States and the international community provide for refugees and other people forced to flee their homes, as well as a tremendous increase in the number of people needing assistance. All these changes have led to continuing debate between the Administration and the Congress and within the Congress. Because the MRA is part of the foreign aid appropriation, and because humanitarian emergencies are growing in number, complexity, and size, the MRA faces enormous budget pressures, both from traditional foreign assistance programs and from new emerging national priorities. While refugee assistance enjoys considerable support, Congress and the Administration face the difficult task of funding humanitarian needs within a constrained budget. For the last several years, the appropriation for the MRA account has remained at about $650 million. The President requested $658.212 million for FY2001. P.L. 106-429, approved by the House and Senate on October 25, appropriated $700 million for the MRA and $15 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migration assistance (ERMA). [read report]

Topics: Population, International

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