Thank you for allowing me to address the Ethiopian Community Development Council’s 18th National Conference and Network Training today. I really wanted to be a part of your conference but I am currently traveling overseas and could not be there in person.
As you probably know, the Ethiopian Community Development Council has assisted in the resettlement of more than 28,000 refugees since its founding in 1991, first focusing on refugees from Africa and then broadening its services to refugees from around the world.
Tapping into refugees’ entrepreneurial potential, ECDC has helped to provide opportunities for small businesses, whether through micro-loans or technical assistance, and given resettled refugees the tools they need to succeed and to build new lives in America.
In fact, several months ago, the White House recognized Dr. Teferra, the President and Chief Executive Officer of ECDC, as a “Champion of Change,” -- an American leader who has made significant contributions -- both to his local community and to his home country. He was among the first NGO leaders I asked to meet with me after I was confirmed by the US Senate for the position of Assistant Secretary.
Your three broad themes today -- recent global developments; ongoing concerns about African refugee protection and resettlement issues; and the impact of refugee and immigrants on their new communities – are very important to me personally and to my colleagues in the Bureau as we look to the future of our programs.
Africa currently hosts some 2.8 million refugees and over 7 million internally displaced persons and conflict victims.
Last fiscal year, our bureau’s funding of more than $500 million assisted and protected refugees, IDPs, and conflict victims in Africa. We supported emergency response for refugees and conflict victims fleeing the DRC, Sudan, and Somalia. We have also responded to new conflicts over the past year, including in Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, and most recently Mali.
U.S. government support to UNHCR, ICRC, and other international and NGO partners has helped ensure assistance and protection for new refugee and displaced populations as well as for those who first fled years ago. In Africa, we have supported repatriation for those able to return home and local integration for those opting to remain in countries of asylum. These are real solutions that make a difference in people’s lives.
And, as you all know, third country resettlement is a crucial component of our response to the plight of refugees. In February, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program reached a milestone – we admitted our three millionth refugee since 1975. Of importance for your discussions at the conference today, this has included more than 260,000 African refugees. We have resettled over 4,000 African refugees so far this fiscal year and we hope to resettle nearly 9,000 by the end of the fiscal year. We remain committed to the resettlement needs of African refugees and we expect to increase the number of resettled African refugees in the coming years.
During the past decade, it was my privilege to visit refugees resettled in cities from Baltimore and New York to Salt Lake City and San Diego. I never fail to be impressed by the hospitality and support new arrivals receive from local communities and by the energy refugees bring to their new lives in the United States.
It truly is the local communities that welcome refugees and provide the services needed for successful resettlement. None of us can guarantee that integration will be easy. But as one of nine national resettlement agencies, ECDC plays a crucial role in helping resettled refugees move quickly toward becoming independent, productive members of their new communities. Refugees and immigrants themselves go on to serve others, making up much of ECDC’s network of community based organizations.
I want to thank you for your service and for your ongoing efforts in support of African refugees and immigrants. I look forward to meeting you all face-to-face in the future. And please accept my best wishes for the remainder of your conference.