Margaret J. McKelvey, Director, Office of Refugee Assistance and Migration for Africa and Asia, Remarks at the Ethiopian Community Development Council's Fourth National Conference on African Refugees, " U.S. Refugee Assistance and Admissions Policy for Africa: Challenges and Opportunities," Washington, DC, September 17, 1998
Released by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, September 17, 1998.


Thank you. It is a pleasure to represent the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and
Migration at ECDC's fourth national conference. This is an important forum to
interact with the non-governmental community that is working with and interested
in African refugees. I have had the honor of previously addressing these
conferences. Today, our Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Alan Kreczko, was
to have spoken to you.
However, a last-minute shuffle of duties related to our annual consultations
with Congress on refugee admissions has Alan representing PRM at two key
international organization donor meetings in Geneva. He was disappointed not to
be able to deliver these remarks himself.

As an aside for any dedicated PRM-watchers here, I first want to report that the
bureau has been reorganized as of September 1--a step aimed at making our work
more effective and our procedures more efficient. In brief, we created one new
office--for policy planning, resource management, and monitoring and evaluation,
and we have realigned several functions among our offices of refugee assistance.
The new geographic alignment of the two migration and refugee assistance offices
are Africa and Asia (or AAA), and Europe, the Near East, and the Americas (or
ENA). I direct AAA, which explains my presence here.
U.S. refugee assistance and admissions policy for Africa is a broad topic. I'll
address assistance first and then conclude with a discussion of admissions.

ASSISTANCE
The President's trip to Africa last Spring and Secretary Albright's visit last
fall underscored U.S. commitment to work with African nations, and Africans
themselves, to help make positive contributions across the continent. The
terrorist bombings of our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam--a vicious and
cowardly "challenge" to the U.S. presence in the region--will not diminish our
engagement. Moreover, U.S. military strikes against Sudan's support of terrorism
do not change our leadership role in humanitarian assistance in Africa. The
United States has important interests throughout Africa, including humanitarian
commitments.

On a hopeful note, the number of African refugees has been declining through
significant repatriations. This has occurred most recently to northwest Somalia
and to Liberia, where we believe voluntary return is well under way. Admittedly,
this is difficult to measure as most refugees weren't in camps and most return
has been spontaneous; that is, unassisted. Of course, the number of persons of
concern to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees--UNHCR--remains
fairly steady as the international community endeavors to work with returned
refugees to assure their sustainable reintegration into their societies.
The humanitarian challenges posed by war and civil strife continue to engage us
on the continent. When the President for the first time this year authorized
withdrawing funds from his emergency refugee and migration assistance account,
he was responding to humanitarian needs largely in Africa, particularly in West
Africa, where the parallel emergencies in Sierra Leone and Liberia have
embroiled the surrounding region. More than 200,000 Sierra Leoneans have fled to
Guinea and Liberia since February, making this the newest large refugee outflow
in Africa. Sierra Leone has proved a grave humanitarian challenge, preoccupying
many of my colleagues, including our Assistant Secretary, Julia Taft. She led a
humanitarian mission to the region in June, which we coordinated with a parallel
donor mission from the European Union. Following her week-long mission, PRM was
able to provide an additional $19.5 million to international relief
organizations wrestling with the Sierra Leone crisis and with Liberian
repatriation.

Curiously, one hoped-for result of Assistant Secretary Taft's mission to Sierra
Leone failed to materialize. We had thought the mission might stimulate more
international media attention about the crisis, which has been characterized by
a depraved campaign of atrocities aimed at civilians. Rebel forces have been
chopping off limbs of their victims not to kill, but rather--one can't say
"merely"--to maim and terrorize. While some media outlets produced reports on
this crisis, coverage has been infrequent, even among the major U.S. news
organizations.

In brief, here are some other flashpoints--challenges, if you will--that concern
our bureau:
* Renewed war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and related backsliding in
the Angolan peace process haven't generated large numbers of refugees so far,
but the clear and present danger exists for ethnic massacres, even genocide,
along with the risks of regionalized warfare.

* War between Eritrea and Ethiopia has generated almost no refugees, but the
numbers of internally displaced persons and deportees are significant. Deportees
present a particular humanitarian challenge, as they are not refugees for whom
well-recognized avenues of protection and assistance exist. On a related note,
this war also challenges us to examine some of the assumptions and timelines
within the U.S. Government's Greater Horn of Africa Initiative.

* Civil war in Sudan and drought conditions have combined to create a terrible
famine, which threatens the survival of more than 2.5 million people. All recent
assessments, including from USAID OFDA Director Roy Williams and UN Special
Humanitarian Envoy Tom Vraalsen, concluded, again, that relief can only go so
far in addressing peoples' vulnerabilities under prevailing conditions. More
attention to recovery of communities' productive capacities, and, above all, an
end to the war are needed if we are to overcome the daunting humanitarian
challenge in Sudan.

* One other worrisome development, not a refugee crisis, involves international
humanitarian assistance. While the U.S. Government's contributions have remained
steady, other donor support for appeals by the UNHCR and others is way down. We
hope this is not a trend.

As this audience knows well, the militarization a few years back of Rwandan
refugee camps in then-Zaire and the subsequent armed attacks on those camps
figured prominently in the decline in respect for international humanitarian
principles, especially in the Great Lakes Region, and in respect toward the
United Nations and particularly UNHCR. Through its Kampala ministerial workshop
in May, UNHCR and its co-host, the Organization of African Unity, sought to
engage the region's heads of state in a discussion of refugees, security, and to
promote a recommitment to the OAU Convention on Refugees.

The security issue again brought to the fore the worldwide challenge to ensure
the exclusively civilian character of refugee camps. In his thorough report this
year on causes of conflict in Africa, Secretary General Annan called for the
creation of some kind of mechanism to assure both the security and neutrality of
refugee camps. The UN Security Council, responding to the report's
recommendations, created several working groups on particular issues, and the
U.S. Government is shepherding the informal working group on refugee camp
security/neutrality. We anticipate a wide-ranging discussion before year's end
on various options that might be applied to this knotty question, which pertains
to some degree to almost all refugee situations around the world.

Another hopeful note: PRM's special efforts for refugee children, including the
Liberian Children's Initiative launched by UNHCR, and UNICEF, have received
greater funding this fiscal year than in previous years. Globally, the bureau
increased funding in this realm from $1.5 million in FY-97 to $6.5 million this
year. Of this last amount, $1.5 million went for the Liberian Children's
Initiative and another $700,000 was provided to NGOs working to help African
children. As the sad phenomenon of child soldiers has proved conspicuous in the
conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the U.S. Government has acted to address
this challenge.

Before turning to refugee admissions, let me note that regarding basic life-
support assistance for African refugees, our bureau is embarking on a renewed
attempt to assure that all international programs are both designed to meet--and
in fact do meet--minimal standards in such areas as nutrition and education. As
many here know, too often the enormous challenge of delivering aid to remote
refugee areas in Africa and of attracting necessary resources leads to
pernicious under-programming of aid. Perhaps this is our biggest ongoing
challenge. Nonetheless, PRM is committed to seek the resources and to work with
program designers to achieve a better outcome for Africa's refugees.

ADMISSIONS

The U.S. Government is strongly committed to offering resettlement to refugees
from Africa. For the past 10 years, the number of African refugees resettled in
the United States has steadily increased. In 1988, we resettled some 1,500
African refugees, a figure down from those of the early 1980s. This year, we
will admit about 7,000, an increase of nearly 500%. In FY-99, which begins Oct.
1, we plan to accelerate the growth of our African resettlement program. The
President has recommended a ceiling of 12,000 African refugee admissions.
Secretary Albright is presenting this figure, and the President's determination
on all refugee admissions for FY-99, to the congress today. A 70% increase in
the size of the African admissions program is without doubt the single greatest
challenge--and opportunity--that PRM faces in the coming year.

This breaks down into two parts: identifying refugees to be processed for
resettlement in the U.S. from among the several million African refugees and
overcoming the myriad logistical and operational difficulties inherent in
processing some 20 nationalities in a similar number of far-flung locations.
I'll address each of these in turn.

Identifying the Pipeline
As we begin FY-99, we do not know who will comprise the African admissions
program. We have been working hard to lay a groundwork for the fiscal year and
to begin it with a healthy "pipeline," as my PRM colleagues describe the needed
stream of refugees eligible to apply for resettlement. Based on interviews that
have occurred or are occurring in the last quarter of the current fiscal year,
now coming to a close, our bureau estimates that we will admit more than 3,500
refugees in the first quarter of FY-99. Building on that healthy start, we will
need to draw at least another 10,000 refugees into the processing stream. We are
actively pursuing additional Priority One referrals from the UNHCR, and we are
considering additional Priority Two group designations. The bureau also has
decided to expand Priority Three access to the program to encompass more African
nationalities than are currently eligible.

Priority One referrals will likely include a significant volume of Sudanese and
Somali cases from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Egypt. We also anticipate the ongoing
flow of Priority One referrals from all over the continent, involving some 20
nationalities.

Under Priority Two, we are considering a number of caseloads in conjunction with
UNHCR. Some of them are the 900 or so Ogoni remaining in Benin, a population of
some 1,500-2,000 Togolese in Benin and Ghana, and the Sudanese "Lost Boys" and
other children in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. No decisions have yet been made
about these groups, but they are under active consideration.

The Priority Three expansion will bring greater equity of access to the U.S.
program for refugees in Africa. Many of you have advocated an expansion of this
family reunification priority for African refugees, and PRM has come to agree
with you. We will have to select the nationalities to add to the eligibility
list on the basis of three criteria:

* The recent eruption of or ongoing conflict resulting in outflows of refugees;
* Significant U.S. resettlement of UNHCR-referred refugees from these
nationalities over the past three fiscal years; and
* The need to assist in finding a durable solution for residual refugee
populations once repatriation is largely completed.

We believe these criteria provide a transparent and inclusive standard for
identifying which Priority Three processing should be available. We developed
the standard based on consultations with NGO partners, UNHCR, our embassies
overseas, and other bureaus within the State Department.

With all of these efforts underway, we are optimistic about achieving the
aggressive goal of substantially increasing the African resettlement program. We
will, of course, continue to look for new and better ways to identify refugees
for whom resettlement is the best durable solution. We trust that the Africa
Working Group--a forum of NGOs from interaction and the PRM Admissions Office--
which began official meetings this past spring, will provide us with concrete
ideas for populations to consider under Priority Two.
This is the first part of our challenge--drawing refugees into the pipeline. The
second challenge in growing the admissions program by 70% in 1 year lies in
managing the increase in operational demands generated by so much growth.

Operations for 12,000
We have asked both JVA and IOM to gear up for a much heavier processing schedule
in FY-99, based on anticipated arrivals of 12,000. JVA will submit a budget that
includes a significantly increased staff to handle the volume in Sub-Saharan
Africa. In Egypt, we already have increased the refugee coordinator's staff, and
IOM Cairo has built up its capacity to handle not only medical examinations and
travel arrangements but also some aspects of in-processing.

The past year has seen marked improvements in the processing flow, but it also
has reminded us again, and poignantly, of how the unexpected can and does
interrupt processing over and over again in Africa.
First, a note on progress. Coordination between IOM and JVA has largely smoothed
out so that resettlement cases are moving through the system much faster than
before. IOM has staffed up, particularly in West Africa, to ensure that cases do
not languish awaiting medical exams. Through flexible and cooperative planning,
the circuit-ride schedule accommodated both P-2 groups designated this year
while also reaching all Priority One referrals and interviewing most of the
Priority Three cases.

The circuit-ride schedule requires close coordination among UNHCR, JVA, INS, and
IOM. This year has shown how well it can work. Special credit here goes to JVAR
Lori Seymour. Even after the horrific bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi
and Tanzania, thanks to our refugee coordinator's unflagging courage and Lori's
presence of mind, our resettlement processing operation continued with only
slight interruption. Even as we speak, a new circuit ride is under way in West
Africa.

Still, the bombings and their after effects are impacting our arrivals for this
year as security concerns close or otherwise limit operations of embassies
across Africa, which impedes out-processing. To the extent we can, PRM has been
filling in and covering for affected embassy staff. In addition, some refugees
in Kenya, particularly in Nairobi, have been rounded up as the Kenyan Government
struggles with security issues in the wake of the bombings. Some of these
refugees are scheduled to travel this month, and their detention may delay their
departure to the United States. We are working with UNHCR Nairobi and with our
refugee coordinator to minimize these delays.

The events in Kenya and Tanzania are the ugliest kind of reminder that the
unexpected can and will occur. Last year, we faced chicken pox in a group about
to depart for the United States. This year, in addition to the embassy bombings,
floods have blocked access to some refugees; malaria has infected caseworkers
and INS officers; Ethiopia and now Kenya periodically have rounded up refugees;
and an explosion in Djibouti killed or injured refugees on their way for their
medical exams. Even more recently, 282 refugees--Rwandan-Burundian mixed-
marriage cases--at the Mkugwa Refugee Camp in Tanzania, who have been selected
for Priority Two resettlement, were unable to get their medical exams. Following
arrivals of new Congolese refugees at the camp, UNHCR was unable to handle all
of the demands. But medical processing may begin by the end of this month,
although the P-2 cases will have to be taken to another site for the exams.
While an expensive solution, this should reduce the time these refugees
otherwise would have had to wait for these exams. Despite these and similar
obstacles, the program continues because so many--not least PRM--are committed
to it.

As we act to nearly double the size of the program, we can only expect that we
will encounter twice the volume of expected and unexpected obstacles. My PRM
colleagues and I believe we are well prepared to meet and overcome whatever
obstacles come our way in the new fiscal year. We know we're involved in a
worthwhile effort. Seeing the African Resettlement Program grow while
maintaining its high standards brings us in PRM as much satisfaction as, we
hope, it brings you.

The coming year poses many challenges, especially in ensuring that protection
and life-sustaining assistance are available for hundreds of thousands of
refugees across the continent. We also have the opportunity to increase our
resettlement of some of the world's most vulnerable refugees; the challenge is
to make this happen. On behalf of PRM, I know we can count on your continued
cooperation, support, and advice in these endeavors because, after all, we share
a common goal.

Thank you.


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