tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN October 20, 2015 2:00pm-4:01pm EDT
examining the recent refugee crisis in europe. this is the helsinki commission. live coverage getting under way on c-span3. >> has become the biggest refugee crisis in europe since world war ii. at least 250,000 people have been killed in syria's civil war. many of them civilians. the security forces of syrian dictator bashir al assad, security forces have been responsible for many of these killings, targeting neighborhoods with barrel bombs and shooting civilians point-blank. isis has committed genocide, mass atrocities and war crimes against christians and other minorities in likewise shia muslims who reject its ideology and brutality. fleeing for safety, more than four million syrians are refugees. the largest refugee population in the world. and another 7.6 million syrians
are displaced inside their home country. syria's neighbors, jordan, lebanon, turkey, iraq, and egypt are hosting most of these refugees. before the syria crisis, these countries struggled with high rates of unemployment, and a range of other domestic challenges. since the conflict began, syrian refugees have become a quarter of lebanon's population, and iraq, which has been beset by isis and its conflict is hosting almost 250,000 refugees from syria. until this past summer, few syrian refugees went beyond countries that border their homeland. syrian refugees and migrants formed from a range of countries have since come to europe in such large numbers and so quickly that many european countries, especially front line entry points like greece, transsis countries like serbia, and destination countries like germany have been challenged and
even overwhelmed. the u.n. high commission for refugees reports that more than 635,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in europe by sea in 2015 alone. 16% from afghanistan. 6% from eritrea and 5% from iraq. notably only 14% are women. 20% are children. the european crisis requires a response that is european, national, and international. and the united states, we believe, is essential to it. there must be effective communication and coordination directly between countries as well as through and with entities like the usce and the european union. individual countries also must have the flexibility to respond best to the particular circumstances in their own
countries. the response mustards push factors like economic challenges and age short falls in countries like syria's neighbors that have been hosting refugees. as a matter of fact, shelly pitterman said that one of the triggers, if not the trigger, as he put it, the last straw for some, was the humanitarian short fall, especially the world food programs cut of 30% in recent months. also, again, we mustards the pull factors. like decisions individual injury peen countries have made in attracting refugees. there is real human need and december international space station. there's also a higher risk of human trafficking. i am especially concerned about the risk of abuse, exploitation, and enslavement of women and children. we are hearing reports that some european countries are failing to protect women and girls from
sexual assault and forced prostitution. the lack of separate bathroom facilities, for example, for males and females, rooms that can be locked, and other basic measures enable such attacks. there's no excuse for such failures and everything must be done to ensure that women and children are safe. there's also the real threat that terrorist groups like isis will infiltrate these massive movements of people to kill civilians in europe and beyond. i am deeply concerned that the screening at many european borders still -- and again, this is a crisis that was thrust upon them, will remain inadequate, putting lives at risk. all of us must be responsive to the humanitarian needs now compromising one iota on security. european response plans should include specifics about strengthening security screening throughout the european region. during the conflict in kosovo, i traveled to a refugee camp in macedonia. crs was leading the effort there. and then was at the mcguire air
force base in new jersey later on to welcome some of the 4,400 people brought there from there to the united states. one refugee, however, was apprehended and sent to jail in 2008 for supplying guns and ammunition to the group of terrorists who were also sent to prison for plotting to kill american soldiers at the ft. dix military installation also in new jersey. given secretary curry's announcement that the u.s. intends to resettle at least 5,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, putting at least 10,000 syrians and at least 100,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017, the united states and europe must be on high alert to weed out terrorists from real refugees. because religious and ethnic minorities often have additional risks and vulnerabilities, even as refugees, they should be prioritized for resettlement.
this hearing will examine who, why they are coming to europe, and the what has been done and should be done in response. european governments, entities like usc and the eu, religiously-based entities in civil society, all have critical roles to play. the united states has been a leading donor to the humanitarian crisis inside syria and refugee crisis in the region. we have also had the largest refugee program in the world. however, according to testimony of shelly pitterman, we will soon -- and we will hear from him shortly. the current interagency regional resilience plan for 2015 is only 41% funded, which has meant cuts in food aid for thousands of refugees. humanitarian system is financially broke. we are no longer able to meet even the absolute minimum requirements of core protection
and life-saving assistance to preserve the human dignity of the people we care for. the current level of funding, he goes on to say, for the 33 u.n. appeals to provide humanitarian assistance is some 82 million people around the world, is only 42%. in other words, almost a 60% short fall. unhcr expects to receive just 47% of the funding they need in the next year. again, this hearing will look at how the united states can best work with our allies in europe to meet humanitarian needs and prevent security threats. in the 20th and 21st centuries, the united states and europe have come together to address the great challenges of our time. this is an opportunity to do so again. before we begin, and before i yield to dr. burgess, i'd like to recognize ambassador who is present with us in the room today. thank you for joining us for this hearing. i'd like to yield to dr.
burgess. commissioner? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, fellow commissioners and distinguished panelists and guests. i want to thank all of you for your participation here today on this hearing on europe's refugee crisis. the term crisis does little justice to the dire situation that refugees are facing. the war in syria, where more than half of the population has either been killed or displaced, has been raging for over four years now. the war's ensuing expansion and related brutality in neighboring countries have left millions of victims with no choice but to leave the lands that some groups have called home for thousands of years. many have observed this to constitute the greatest migration and refugee crisis since world war ii.
and this is especially troubling when you factor in the relatively small scale of the populations and regions in conflict. however, the roots of this crisis go far beyond the war in syria, as witnessed by the participants in the migration flows. people from across the middle east, africa, even the balkans are contributing to this mass exodus from areas of strife. among them are economic migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people. the numbers of migrants are increasing. it's estimated that over 500,000 have crossed into eu borders this year alone. fatalities too are increasing at alarming rates. more than 3,500 perished in the mediterranean last year. and this year, possibly more than that will perish. the osce can play a unique role
in addressing this crisis, and help alleviate human suffering and mitigate related human rights abuses. the organization is uniquely equipped with tools, mandates, and a neutral framework that can help member states addressing an array of issues. with russia's direct entrance into the war in syria, the osce's neutral framework could be of great use in report iing syria and the surrounding region. furthermore, its relationship can be of great significance to the u.s.'s interest, as we rely on that for our own domestic resettlement processes. i look forward to hearing about greater areas of cooperation in tackling this crisis. i want to thank all of the panelists here for their participation. we must not forget that people
are dying. as the u.s., the eu, debate this issue, we must not let fear be the greatest motivator of our responses. the united states and the west must offer start contrast to isis and the assad regime. and other governments or terrorists that wreck havoc on religious and ethnic minorities or other countless victims of homeland security abuses that drive this crisis. we must carry a firm resolve that justice and charity is done under our watch. i want to thank the chair again for holding this hearing and i yield back. >> thank you very much, commissioner pitts. dr. burgess. >> thank you for having this hearing. i'll keep my remarks brief, because the numbers have been very well-stated by other people. but we all recognize the conflict in syria is moving into its fifth year. the islamic state controls large
areas of both syria and iraq. russia has now intervened militarily on behalf of the syrian government, further exacerbating tensions among the armed resistance groups, terrorist insurgents and those loyal to president assad. these factors have contributed and created the staggering number of displaced persons that we are seeing. and at least 710,000 refugees have reached europe's borders just this year. syrians are the largest group by nationality. most of them are hoping to reach germany, sweden, france, the united kingdom, and many ultimately the united states. i think chairman smith said it very, very well when he gave the breakdown of the numbers, and when you just look at the pictures of the people occupying the rail stations, leading transport to different destination, yes, you see women, yes, you see children. but you see an awful lot of young men of military age who
are fleeing. this raises questions in the minds of the constituents i represent back in texas. why is this particular subset of the population leaving so quickly, leaving so willingly, sacrificing the safety of their loved ones that they leave behind? why aren't these individuals defending their country and giving access to women and children? the populations who may be most eligible for exploitation by the islamic state, why not give them the opportunity to lead first and to be safe? are these young men leaving to avoid conscription or worse? are they leaving to carry on the fight in other fronts? recently, european countries pledged to accepting increased number of syrian refugees and other asylum seekers. in response, on september 20, john kerry announced the refugee ceiling in the united states for fiscal year 2016 would be
85,000. previously, the administration announced the united states would admit at least 10,000 syrian refugees in fiscal year '16. other reports that have come out have suggested that number could be as high as 100 or even 200,000. and i would just suggest to the state department that the differences in the discrepancies in those numbers are leading to a certain amount of unease for the constituents i represent back in texas. given the large and sudden increase in the admittance of refugees from one particular war-torn area, some would-be terrorists are bound to try to exploit any deficiencies that occur wi
occur within this country, and as a member of the commission but also as a member of congress, i have a constitutional obligation to have as my number one goal the defense of my nation, and i must not -- i must not forget that responsibility. how much authority and control does the administration actually have over this process? and is europe the first stop for these refugees implementing appropriate vetting processes before the individuals are moved elsewhere, particularly to the united states. i don't want to diminish the incredible hardship that these individuals have endured, but we must be certain that we aren't inadvertently admitting members of the islamic state or other terrorist organizations into our country. i thank the chairman for convening this hearing. i look forward to the testimony of our witnesses. i yield back. >> thank you very much, dr. burgess, and the commission is very pleased to welcome anne richard, the assistant secretary for the bureau of population refugees and migration. prior to her appointment, ms. richard was the vice president of government relation and advocacy for the international rescue committee.
she also -- and i'll put your full resume into the record without objection. but from 1999 to 2001, ms. richard was director of the secretary's office of resources, plans and policy at the state department from '97 to '99. she was deputy chief financial officer for the peace corps. she served as a senior adviser in the deputy secretary's office of public policy resources at state, and as budget examiner at the u.s. office of budget. thank you for being here and the floor is yours. >> thank you very much, chairman smith. thank you, members, of the helsinki commission. for holding this hearing and for the opportunity to appear before you, to discuss the refugee and migration emergency in europe and the middle east, i have just returned from a series of meetings overseas, including my fifth visit to turkey and my eighth visit to jordan in my tenure as assistant secretary. it's a very challenging situation. and i would like to briefly outline the steps taken by the
population refugees and migration bureau and others at the state department and u.s. agency for international development and in the obama administration to help provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians and to assist the governments of other countries to deal with this crisis. as you know, in early september, the tragic photo of a little boy's body on a beach in turkey awakened people to the plight of syrian refugees in ways that years of grim statistics, bleak images, and climbing casualty figures could not. what started as unrest in syria in 2011 has developed into a multi-front war and spilled over to become a regional crisis, and now the crisis has reached europe as hundreds of thousands of young men, women, and sometimes entire families seek to reach that continent by boat, bus, train, and foot. they are joined by refugees and migrants from other countries, chiefly afghanistan, eritrea, and iraq. they are taking pathways to europe that migrants have always
used, but the scale of this migration is much bigger than before, and has caught the attention of the world. americans want to understand what is causing the crisis, how we are responding, and what more we can do to help. while there has always been migration to europe through africa and across the mediterranean, the numbers began to rise noticeably in mid 2013. smugglers took advantage of the breakdown of law and order in libya to profit from and exploit refugees and migrants desperate to reach europe. the numbers have grown steadily. so far in 2015, more than 600,000 people have crossed the mediterranean and agean seas. others come the western balkans route from turkey by boat to greece and then on ward. as the numbers of migrants have risen, so too have we seen an increase in drownings. more than 3,000 so far this year. syrian refugees in jordan,
turkey, and lebanon are losing hope of ever returning to their homes. they are worried about the reliability of food and assistance programs that are being reduced for lack of funds. as you mentioned earlier, mr. smith, they don't have regular work to sustain their families. rents are high. and their children are missing out on school. today, an estimated 6.5 million syrians are internally displaced and nearly 4.1 million are refugees. more than half of these refugees are children. along with so-called push factors, what's going wrong that's pushing them out of the region, there are undeniable pull factors, prompting individuals and families to make this trip. these include the summer weather, a perception that europe was certainly open to unlimited refugee arrivals, fear that the policy would change without notice, and borders would close, and desire to join friends and relatives who had already made it to europe. it is important for us to remember and acknowledge that
the vast majority of syrian refugee families, 96%, remain in the middle east. the u.s. government is very much engaged in responding to the crisis and has been for some time. we have a three-pronged approach. strong levels of humanitarian assistance, and for this, we have to thank bipartisan support from the congress. active diplomacy. and expanded refugee resettlement. the u.s. government is a leading donor of humanitarian assistance to people in need inside syria, in the surrounding countries and others around the world. through contributions to international organizations such as the u.n. high commissioner for refugees, international committee of the red cross, international organization for migration, the world food program unicef, and leading non-governmental organizations, u.s. funds are being used to save millions of lives. on september 21st, the white house announced that the united states would provide nearly 419 million in additional assistance for those affected by the war in syria. that was our last large
announcement for that fiscal year. and this brought our total of humanitarian assistance and response to the syrian conflict to more than 4.5 billion since the start of the crisis. without our support, i believe more people would be making the dangerous voyage further north. however, even with our sizable contributions, u.n. appeals for humanitarian aid to address this crisis in syria remain underfunded. and mr. smith, you presented a lot of those numbers. and you made the completely accurate point that we see that about 60% of the response to the appeals inside syria and in the surrounding countries goes unfunded, and if that's the case, across the board with all of the major humanitarian emergency sis right now. it's a major frustration. it's not because the u.s. isn't doing its share. the u.s. is a major funder of all of those humanitarian operations. but even though we're doing more than we've ever done before, it's not enough relative to the
need. contributions are urgently needed. the second prong of our response is diplomacy on humanitarian issues. for several years, we have engaged government officials in the region to encourage them to keep borders open, allow refugees to enter their countries, authorize the work of leading humanitarian organizations, and allow refugees to pursue normal life, as normal as possible given what they have been through. we are part of a chorus of nations that call for the respect of humanitarian principles, even inside syria in wartime. diplomacy on humanitarian issues means working constructively with other nations to find solutions. the issue of the refugee and migration crisis was taken up again and again in recent international forum, such as the u.n. general assembly in new york in september, the executive committee in geneva in early october, and the just concluded global forum on development in
istanbul. all provided opportunities for countries to come together in a common effort. i attended the first and led the u.s. delegation to the others. all of these venues, we met on the sidelines with government officials involved in the crisis, from sweden and germany, to lebanon, jordan, and turkey. diplomacy also includes pushing when needed those who can and should be doing more to do so. many countries choose to provide assistance outside the u.n. system. however, we are deeply engaged on encouraging other countries to contribute to the u.n. appeals to syria to help prevent duplication, and ensure that precious and scarce humanitarian assistance is provided to those who need it the most. we are also encouraging countries to identify opportunities for refugees to pursue livelihoods and become more self-sufficient in ways that do not exacerbate existing unemployment issues in host countries. the third prong of our response is reselling refugees in the united states. the u.s. has welcomed over three million refugees from all over the world under the u.s. refugee
admissions program. in fiscal year 2015, nearly 70,000 refugees of 67 different nationals were admitted for permanent resettlement to the united states. this was the third year in a row that we reached our target of 70,000. so in fiscal years 2016, the president determined we should increase that number to 85,000, including at least 10,000 syrians. and as you know, we would then strive if successful to reach 100,000 refugees from around the world in the following year. we need to continue to expand our efforts, and we seek to work even more closely with the european union and its member countries, as well as those countries not part of the european union, to help shape a comprehensive and coordinated response, and we have already started that process. in the middle east, we are working on an initiative to get more refugee children in school in turkey. education for children who have been displaced, whatever their status and wherever they land,
is essential for their own futures and for ours. we support the no loss generation campaign to educate and protect syrian children and youth. given the protracted nature of this crisis, we are also looking at new ways to better link our relief and development assistance. with roughly 85% of refugees now living outside of camps in cities and villages throughout the middle east, we need to be working to help refugees become self-sufficient and support the communities that host them. so, once again, the u.s. must join with enlightened leaders in europe to take action, and this builds on the work the obama administration has been doing for more than four years to help the countries neighboring syria and address the needs of innocent people caught up in the syrian crisis. i know that it was said that the u.s., europe, and the osce are debating what to do. i think europe is debating, but
the u.s. is very much doing. we're doing a lot. and we're seeking to be as helpful as possible. and that is the message that in recent weeks we've been telling european ambassadors and leaders, foreign ministers, prime ministers. and this builds on what we've been saying to the loaders of lebanon, jordan, turkey, iraq in the previous several years. so i'm very happy with that, to answer your questions about my testimony and related issues. >> thank you very much, madam secretary. let me ask first, i'll throw in a few questions, and my colleagues -- we'll have many, many questions. in terms of the number of people potentially going to be resettled here in the united states, the unhcr suggested 10% of the syrian refugees are some 400,000 persons in total are in need of resettlement. in the testimony that will be
provided today, mr. pitterman says units have already referred more than 45,000 syrians with refugee resettlement with more than 20,000 of those referrals made to the united states. although it's been fewer than 2,000 persons so far, he notes they are encouraged by the intent to admit at least 10,000 in fiscal year 2016. my question is, the 2,000 that have come here, this referral of some 20,000 that have been made, what state of process of going through their case, cases, where are we on that? where are they right now physically, and with regards to the robust efforts to ensure that isis and other potential groups of lone wolves or wolfpacks, groups of individuals who come here with malice on their mind -- i know we have a very robust way of doing our screening. i've looked at it very
carefully. a congressional research service of several paragraphs describing it will be made as part of the record. i think it is robust. but it's very hard to do a background check on people about which you know very, very little, and there's very little database available anywhere to ascertain what their motives might be. i'm wondering how we bridge that gap to ensure we are not unwittingly welcoming them into this country. the man from kosovo, it happened right inside of my own district. i was there, plane loads of people were coming down. people from the community in mercer county, burlington county, and ocean counties met them with a great deal of affection. and yet included among them was a man who would seek to work with the ft. dix five to murder service members and their families at ft. dix. thankfully, that plot was thwarted and they are now in
prison. at least the five from the ft. dix five. so your thoughts on that. i'll have a couple other questions and i'll yield. >> thank you, mr. chairman. we have brought nearly 2,000 syrians to the united states as part of the u.s. refugees admissions program since 2011. the numbers have climbed very slowly. last year we brought in 201 2015 1,682. >> is that because of vetting issues? >> well, there were a couple of things. first is that when there's a crisis and people flee, you don't automatically start a refugee resettlement program. our hope initially is that they'll be able to go home again. quite candidly, in the first year or so of this cry circumstances i really thought that it would be over soon and people would be able to go back. so when that did not become the
case, in 2013, unhcr started to think about a resettling program for syrians who had fled to neighboring countries. that's where most of the refugees who have been referred to us are. they are living in the countries that neighbor syria, and some -- the top four countries are turkey, jordan, lebanon, iraq, and also some are as far afield as egypt. and we already were resettling refugees from this area because we were settling iraqi refugees who fled to these countries, including syria. so the other reason it takes a while to bring people here is our process currently takes between an average of 18 to 24 months, because refugee applicants have to go through a series of steps. the most important thing i can say related to security is that no one comes here who hasn't been approved by the department of homeland security. so no foreign entity or
organization deciding for us who comes to the united states, who crosses that border. and as you noted, there have been nearly 22,000 referrals made. so there are a number of people who the unhcr has determined would potentially be good applicants for our program. so who's a good applicant for our program? we tend to take people who are particularly vulnerable, people for whom going home to syria is just not in the cards. it's just likely never going to happen again. so these are people who have been, for example, torture victims, who would be traumatized by returning to what once was their homes. these are people who have lost family members, sometimes they've suffered bodily harm. families with children that have burns, or been traumatized. people who could benefit from some of the advanced medicines, medical technology that we can provide here. people who need to make a fresh
start. and this is in keeping with the way we've been running the program for some years. and the amazing thing is that these people who are among the most vulnerable turn out to make perfectly fine residents in the united states. and often are able to come back to support themselves. the kids do extremely well in school. and they go on to thrive. we've seen this with so many communities over the years, so i'm fairly confident that this will be the case for syrian refugees. in terms of security process, the refugees have help putting together their story. a case file on who they are, why they had to flee, and what their own personal histories are. and this is either individual or family will have a case. and then we have organizations that we fund in the middle east to help them put that story
together, and then be prepared for an interview by a department of homeland security interviewer. the interviewers from dhs are very well-trained, so that even if there is not a lot of existing information about these individuals in u.s. files, they can see whether their stories hold up. whether they say they were at the right place at the right time, they can look at their documents. they can sort out what's been forged and what's actually authentic. they take their time in these interviews. they're very fasht. i've sat in on some of thepatie. i've sat in on some of the interviews. they had me sit in on the ones that were particularly well-run. but still, i came away very impressed by how our dhs colleagues walk very carefully through these stories and double check and recheck. and then they also -- we run the names against the national security and law enforcement databases that the united states
maintains. and essentially, we're weeding out people who are liars, who are criminals, who are would-be terrorists. and so this is partly why the program, the three million people we've brought here. we have very few cases of people ending up getting into trouble, or threatening trouble. that doesn't mean that we should let our guard down. i think we can only run this program taking every possible step to keep out bad guys. i completely agree with that. i know the entire state department agrees with me on this. we have to do both. we have to run a program that is as efficient as possible, that provides us humanitarian pathway to a new life for a number of the refugees, and we have to keep out the people who are up to no good. >> just a few final questions. we know what the amount of
money -- the unmet need that's being provided by the international community in percentage terms. what is it in actual dollar terms? what is the unmet need for this crisis? secondly, are you considering the designation of any p2 groups for syrians, including christians and other minority religions? is that under active consideration? and on the trafficking issue, there have been a number of reports. as you know, the trafficking victims protection act, you take a -- on the special representative for the osc, the parliamentary assembly on trafficking. we know it's a huge problem in the united states, in europe, around the world. but it's often exploited by traffickers, or situations in this -- obviously it's both. we've heard reports that in places like bavaria, there's one refugee camp there where one worker described as the biggest brothel in munich, and pointed out that again, women -- 80% of the camp residents are men.
and the women have very, very risky life just living there. they are trafficked and exploited and raped. if you believe enough is being done in europe to ensure that this exploitation of women does not occur, and whether they're collaborating with people in europe who i know personally care deeply about the trafficking issue, and then i'll yield to mr. pitts. >> the first question was about the funding. the second question -- could you just remind me? >> it was about the p2. whether or not you are actively considering designating christians and yazidis and other minority religions for immigration purposes to bring these folks over. >> the appeal for last year, for both inside syria and around syria was around $8 billion. i believe it was funded at
about -- we're looking at four or five. it's on a calendar year basis. we'll see how much is brought in by the end of december. most of the funding i think has been provided. on the p2, the advantage of the p2 category is that it helps unhcr -- it helps us get referrals. it facilitates that. since we have 22,000 referrals right now, it's not a problem for us. so it's not something that would benefit us right at the moment. we can always take a fresh look at that. but behind your question was a concern about minorities. and certainly we definitely define the vulnerable people to include religious and ethnic minorities, and that includes christian minorities and the yazidis in iraq. 40% of the refugees we've brought from iraq have been christians or other ethnic or
religious minorities. now, with the syrians, i don't think we'll find those large percentages. because we just don't have such large percentages in the groups of refugees that have fled the country. so we'll be certainly looking at protections for those groups. but they're not as prevalent in the refugee flow as they have been for iraqis. we have heard the stories about the exploitation taking place in germany. we're very concerned about it. yes, our trafficking person has been involved in the administration's refugee response. they've been integrated in our response through participation at senior and working levels and working groups focused on refugee flows as well as law enforcement surrounding human smuggling. we, like you, share our horror at what happens to women and
girls. when any big migration or refugee flow happens, we have worked hard to agree with the organizations we fund that we shouldn't wait for the evidence. we should just assume bad things are happening. and put in place early steps to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. so i don't have evidence of a specific situation in germany. we have a very close working relationship right now with the germans. i accompanied secretary kerry when he visited germany and met with syrian refugees there and talked to their foreign minister. i met with them in new york. so we can follow up and find out -- >> i would note the munich example is only one of many that we have here. so i'm hoping that the tip office is collaborating not just with the state, but also with the europeans? >> i don't know, they're very involved. and so i'll go back and find out to what extent.
we're tracking down some of these stories. because we don't have evidence of the specific things that we've seen on the web taking place, but i believe bad things could be happening. because they always do. and so i think we have to run down these stories with working with the german government. >> okay, thank you. >> very happy to work with the tip office. >> commissioner pitts? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, madam secretary, for coming today. i want to emphasize that i think you should prioritize christians and ethnic minorities for the p2 resettlement program because i think they're most at risk. let me go back to this question about all the young men in the refugee flow that dr. burgess raised. and the type of vetting processes that are utilized before admitting refugees to the united states. i heard you say there are stories.
you checked the international criminal database. what other steps do you take to vet these refugees? >> well, if you want to get in deep to the details, we can have a classified briefing, which we've been giving more often now to members of congress. and dhs are really the experts on it. but the steps include then the referral from unhcr, so they weed out people who are not appropriate to refer to us. the preparation of their case, very importantly, the interview by dhs examiners, and then checking their names and their biometric data, their fingerprints against u.s. law enforcement, and national security databases. when there's a question, sometimes applicants are put on hold while further investigations are carried out.
so nobody comes to the united states about whom there are any open questions. dhs -- they take their role extremely seriously. >> and how long will this vetting process continue? how long does it take? >> right now, the average is 18 to 24 months. there's a sense in the administration that this is too long. and part of it is we want it to be as quickly as possible for the sake of the refugees, but we also want to make sure we don't cut any corners that would relate to security. so in the coming months, we will be carrying out a review of the program. the senior white house officials have asked us to make sure we bring a fresh set of eyes to this, so we will be working probably to bring in consultants to see if there are ways to speed up the process without cutting corners. >> do you ever turn anyone down
for lack of information? >> i'd have to refer you to dhs on that. but no one comes -- if they have any question about their safety. >> to what degree do european governments share this concern about the potential for islamic terrorists to exploit the crisis to gain a foothold in europe? >> well, 100% share the concern. but they are not in a position to run kind of program we are as they have people walking across borders to reach their countries. so i was recently speaking and met the number two from the german embassy here. he said i wish we had the luxury of taking 18 to 24 months to vet people before they cross our borders. so we are working with -- to support unhcr. to help make sure that at the borders, as many people as possible are screened and
registered. a determination is made, are they bona fide refugees, are they people who are perhaps economic migrants who had just come from a job and they're not fleeing persecution? i think on this next panel, this is a good question to put to some of the european witnesses, to get at what they are able to do and what they are unable to do with the flow currently coming from the middle east. >> and where are these individuals held while you're doing this screening? where are they? >> some of the refugees are in camps in turkey, in southern turkey and in northern jordan. many live outside of camps, so they're living in apartments or in homes, sometimes with relatives. they're living on their own. they come to unhcr offices to apply for the program where
they're referred by unhcr or ngo staff who know about their situations and think they might make good candidates for resettlement in a third country. >> secretary kerry announced the refugee ceiling in 2017 will be 100,000. what nationalities do you anticipate admitting in significant number next year? >> well, in the past, it's been the three top nationals were burmese, butanese, and iraqis. that's changing, because we've brought so many from nepal that the numbers are now going down. we will still see significant numbers of burmese, iraqis, and now we'll be adding somalis are climbing in terms of their percentage coming. so that will continue to be the case. i think what you'll see is about half of the people coming will be from africa, and half will be
roughly, 40%, 50% from the middle east. >> and what are the most common root causes for displacement in africa? >> well, in terms of becoming a refugee, you have to prove that you're fleeing. you have a well-founded fear of persecution for one of five reasons, which are race, nationality, religion, political belief, or membership in a particular social group. displacement in africa, of course, happens for more than that reason. some people are fleeing famine. some people are fleeing, you know -- at one point ebola. but right now, we see big displacement because of poor governance and fighting in south sudan. people have been living outside of somalia in nearby countries for years now as that government -- first for the
violence, and now as that government tries to get its feet under it. we're seeing more and more people coming from west africa who are fleeing boko haram in northern nigeria, and they're going to several countries nearby. so we also have unrest causing people to flee. often it's poor governance. >> you haven't mentioned syria yet. how many syrian refugee cases has unhcr referred to the u.s. program? >> it's about 22,000 now. >> 22,000. and at what stage are these cases in the u.s. resettlement consideration process? >> they're at all stages of the process. because it takes a couple of years, we are only just now seeing large numbers arrive. and so that's why we're anticipating that this year, we can climb from nearly -- let me
see. nearly 1,700 last year to more like 10,000 this year. >> okay. and where will the united states process syrian refugee cases this year? >> so the top places will be in jordan, in jordan, and in turkey. we also have some other facilities in the region. we would like to start bringing people out of lebanon, but we're delayed doing that at the moment. so let's see. so jordan is number one. turkey, egypt are the other countries where we can bring sizable numbers right now. >> all right. finally, osce. could you elaborate on the role that osce could have in monitoring the treatment of refugees as they transit from osce countries? >> i'd like to answer that
question. i would just say, because i didn't know this until i saw it on the piece of paper in front of me, that of 18,000 referrals we have right now, 4,000 have been interviewed by dhs already and 14,000 are awaiting their interview or getting ready for their interview. on the osce, we welcome any efforts by the organization for security and cooperation in europe, and any of its institutions or field missions to coordinate with unhcr and other international organizations to provide assistance to countries dealing with refugee and migration crisis in europe. the secretary and institutions such as the office for democratic institutions for human rights and the high commission for national minorities have experienced helping countries respond to crises. just last year, the osce and unhcr issued a detailed protection checklist, outlining the types of actions that organizations could take in response to types of various crises. osce is hosting a conference with its mediterranean partners,
so that's algeria, egypt, jordan, morocco, tunisia to discuss common challenges to european security, including the migration protection and trafficking persons concerns. we support efforts by osce in this regard. and . >> we also believe osce will be putting together an >> i just returned where many refugees are coming in. and then we visited germany. one of the things we heard from officials that we talked with.
>> hearing how your trip went. the challenges of bringing refugees in is that we want to be certain we're bringing the right people. >> sure. >> and so getting this balance right between . >> it involves many not-for-pro nongovernmentable organizations on both sides of the oceans. so, there are many hands that help the refugees along the way.
and that takes time. . the good part is that it's a very successful program that works, year and year out. you know, we've brought 70,000 refugees from all around the world for the past few years and i meet refugees from all around the united states and i ask them, is this a good program, should we continue to run it and they feel it is a lifesaving program that has given their whole family a chance for a new future. and personally i feel that it strengthens the united states to have such diverse population and be bringing in people from all around the world and it adds to our culture, to our fabric, so i am convinced the program should continue and be strong and will likely be strong. but it does take a lot of steps and it's also a public/private partnership. the life of a refugee coming to the united states is very challenging.
it's not a luxurious program, receive few jiffs have to get a job. and many refugees if they don't speak english they have to start over at the bottom of the economic ladder, but they do it and they're very -- employers tell us that they're very, very good, highly motivated workers. children get enrolled in school. the younger the kids are, the more quickly they adamant. older kids takes a little longer, but generally the program is great. >> sure. i'm sorry to interrupt, but i actually support our program. the question that i'm really asking is, are there ways for us to be more efficient, do the same kind of vetting but to do it in a way that is more efficient that better coordinates all the various players who are part of the effort so that we can more effectively respond when we see this kind of a crisis. >> the process that has had a
lot of scrutiny from the national security council and the white house over the course of this administration and so a lot of steps have been taken, a lot of sort of the easier steps have been taken to tighten up the program. but my sense is that few of us are satisfied that it still takes an average of 18 to 24 months to bring people so we've been asked to take a fresh look and in the coming months to have consultants come in and review the whole process. and see if we can shorten the time span that it takes to bring refugees without cutting corners on security. >> thank you. and can you respond on the 41% of funding that actually been produced for humanitarian efforts. and if you could also speak to some of our allies in the middle east, in arab countries, and
their commitment to help with the refugees. >> so even though we're providing sort of what i see as the foundation of the humanitarian assistance that goes to some of the, you know, the most effective operation organizations overseas and we get very solid support, bipartisan support, from the house and the senate, it's not enough funding. and so we need other countries to provide assistance and other countries to do more. first the traditional donors. may have been suffering from fatigue because i felt in the last year or two that their contributions while increasing were not keeping pace with the needed increases. so, certainly europe is very focussed on needing to provide more assistance to help the refugees who are in the middle east and displaced inside syria and also refugees in the
surrounding neighboring countries. for a couple years now we've been trying to encourage gulf states to become routine, regular donors to and through united nations appeals. and i would say we've had mixed success on this. we have seen some very large generous contributions but they tend to be onetime-only checks written. they're not always through the u.n. they're nothing you can count on will happen again the following year. we're very appreciative that kuwait held three annual pledging conferences on the syria crisis and i attended all of them. that did help to, you know, put real money on the table and the u.s. and kuwait were the top donors in response to those pledging conferences. but it's not enough. and what we'd like to see is some more gulf states become
regular, annual donors in a dependable way with the united nations. then, you know, we look at the u.s. and the uk as -- and france as part of the permanent five members of the u.n. security council, but russia and china are also members and we don't see them being engaged on humanitarian activities, supporting humanitarian activities to the way other members are, so we would like to see more countries involved joining the table of traditional donors. expand that. then we also are very interested in getting more private sector contributions from philanthropies and foundations but also businesses and from the public, so for me it's very gratifying that in recent weeks we have seen that happen. and we've gone from, you know, wondering how to make that happen to seeing it really happen and so now the question is how can we make this a
sustaining interest. what wove seen is that americans can be very generous but tend to prefer to give after natural disasters like the earthquake in haiti, i believe half of all howls holds were reported to give. so, i think there's been a sense that the situation in the middle east is messy and there's a lot of bad guys running around and we didn't want to do anything to support them. but i know that there are a lot of families, innocent families, who are being victimized by terrorists who deserve help. i think when americans see the faces of these families, they realize, oh, these are people we have to help. we must help. we feel compelled to help. so, i'd like to build on some of the generosity that we've seen in recent weeks. of course, this is not the responsibility of the u.s. government to do that but to encourage it certainly. and see more giving from more private sector and more members of the public. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. i have other questions but i'll reserve them for the next panel.
>> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, madam secretary, for being here today. you said in your opening statement that one of the drivers of the flood of refugees to europe was the perception that europe was open. can you expand upon that a little bit. what gave people that impression? >> i think that, you know, the fact that early waves were getting all the way to germany and were being received in germany may have through social media and through just plain old media suggested to people this was the time to go and that they would be able to make it all the way. it's probably a question best answered by europeans. but that's -- without knowing all the -- without being an expert on all the specific details on this, i think that that was part of what was happening. >> you mentioned social media and that was actually what i was going to get to, was social media one of the drivers that
led to this? >> i've been told that you can get a lot of information about how to make the voyage and the journey off of the web and off of one's phone. >> i would expect that that's probably true. as far as the 1,700 individuals that were approved in this last fiscal year, fiscal year 2016? >> they arrived. >> they arrived. and those were all -- those all went through the dhs vetting process? and of that 1,700 how many were not approved and what, then, happened to them? >> no, the 1,700 is the number that were approved. so, i don't have the numbers that were disapproved, were rejected to come. we can try to get that for you. >> and then the numbers are going to go up so there's going to be a scaling issue with
department of homeland security being able to keep up with the numbers that you will be asking them to vet, is that correct? >> that is very correct. >> and what are the discussions that you've had with secretary homeland security or that secretary kerry has had with the secretary of homeland security about what you're doing in your agency and what they might expect in their agency? >> we have had a series of -- for a couple years now of inner agency meetings that the nsc has pulled together and deputies committee meetings or even a principal's committee meeting or two, so at different levels of the executive branch, that bring together the state department, health and human services, because they provide assistance to the states. >> i have some questions i want to ask you about that. >> after refugees get here. and then dhs and then some of the other law enforcement national security agencies to make sure all of these pieces
are working together. and there is a lot of pressure now for dhs to get more interviewers hired, trained and out to the field so that they can support bringing higher number of refugees. out to the field, all around the world, and not just to the middle east. >> certainly in texas last summer, july of 2014, we saw some of the deficiencies of the office of refugee relocation through the department of health and human services who were responsible for handling, processing and handling the unaccompanied minors as they came through and it seemed like they were pretty much at or beyond their limit. are you talking with your counterparts in the department of health and human services about additional stresses that may be placed on their system because of the numbers that you're bringing -- proposing to bring in? >> so, all of the agencies, all three of the agencies that play
the biggest roles in this, have to make trade-offs in terms of their budgets about what they're going to fund related to this program. so, for the state department the question is, how much of our funding goes to overseas assistance to help people who are either displaced in their own countries or refugees nearby and then how much do we then spend to bring refugees to the united states. and right now we're spending about $400 million of our budget for them. so, most of our funding goes overseas, but it is sizable. and for dhs the question was do they use their staff to help asylum applicants in the united states or do they send them overseas to do these interviews. and they were sort of -- the two missions were competing against each other to a certain extent over the past year. so, hiring more interviewers will help address that issue.
and then the office of refugee resettlement in hhs has a couple of different responsibilities, and as you rightly point out, one of it is to help unaccompanied minor children arriving in the united states such as happened last summer and has happened since, but peaked last summer at the u.s./mexico border. and so they were responsible for these unaccompanied minor children, but they also are responsible for providing assistance through the states to help refugees beyond that initial three months reception and placement piece that the state department funds. for special programs either to help people who need a little longer time getting a job or with english language classes or other special programs. so, all of these things cost money. and right now the administration is looking, working with omb, to determine if we need to be
requesting increases in our budgets to handle these things, but i think your question is right on target in terms of where -- where we need to be doing more work in providing answers to you. >> well, and, of course, it's not your agency, but orr specifically in my opinion needs to work more closely with the states that are going to be affected by the people who are then resettled in those communities. there are stresses that are placed upon our local governments, our school districts, because of the numbers of people who are resettled in those communities. >> i think that is my responsibility, though -- >> i had this discussion with secretary newland when she came before us a year and a half ago. yes, i think it would be good if state would talk to perhaps senators or even individual members of congress, a lot of people who are being resettled within their district boundaries or their state boundaries, i think that would be extremely
helpful. my personal experience has been that does not happen. i've not been as affected as some other members of congress and other senators but it certainly does occur and something you hear about from your local folks all the time. >> it's a requirement of the program and we have made it more specific what has to be done that the nine groups that resettle refugees in the united states with us, the not for profits, six are faith based, three are not, that they consult with community leaders about their plans for resettling refugees so that the local sheriff and the mayor and the school superintendent are not surprised when people are showing up in their -- in their villages, in their homes and in their cities. i recently at the end of august traveled to spartanburg, south carolina, because congressman trey gowdy had questions about whether sufficient consultation was done and so i went down and traveled with his staff and met with a lot of local leaders there. so, i see this as part of our
job, to make sure that this happens. i'm sorry, i can't get to better know a district in all 435, but we are making sure -- >> you know where the people are going. it's not a surprise to you -- >> texas is number one. i'm sure a lot of refugees would like to live in texas, but so what we're doing is we're making sure that it's a requirement of our partners that do the actual reception and placement that they check with local leaders and they do it four times a year. >> perhaps if you could provide me some of that data that's been generated by that requirement and the -- de vulging that information just before -- and i'm going to conclude, but, i mean, chairman smith made the observation about the number of refugees that were young males, chairman pitts asked you a similar sort of question.
give us some comfort here when you look at those pictures and they do seem to be predominantly military-age males with very few women and children scattered throughout. and chairman smith has some statistics why -- why is that? are these young men fleeing conscription? is there perhaps a darker purpose afoot? what -- why does it appear that way? >> i think that for young men coming directly out of syria part of it is they are trying to avoid serving in the assad regime's military and they do not want to be part of his war effort and they are people who prefer to live in peace and just want a normal life. and then for those fleeing from nearby countries, not fleeing, but leaving, choosing to leave nearby countries, it's partly because they don't have jobs that are legal jobs. many are working but they are working in an underground
economy where they can be exploited and abused and underpaid and so it's not appreciated by their neighbors. they are looking for a place to go where they can finish their education some of them or they can get their kids in school. because a lot of children are out of cool from the syrian refugee community and they can practice their -- acquire skills or practice the professions that they've acquired. and so they're moving to europe because they think they will have a better life in the places that they've been. >> i guess what i don't understand why are they leaving and not giving preference to their wives and girlfriends or mothers people who might be more readily exploitable by isis? >> i think that they are leaving their families in places that the they believe are safe. those members of the family would not -- inside syria would not be recruited into the military. i'm amazed that nearly 7 million displaced syrians have stayed inside syria, though, part of that is because of programs to try to get as much aid into the
country to benefit innocent people as possible. but for the people who are leaving from turkey and from jordan, they feel their families are safe. they have achieved safety, but they're not able to afford to live there. i talked to a woman in germany who left two daughters behind and gone, you know, on this dangerous trip by boat from turkey to greece with a 5-year-old. and i said, wasn't it dangerous? and she said, yeah, but she could not afford to live in turkey because the rents were so high and so she felt the best thing for family was to go on ahead, reach germany, establish a toehold there and later send for other families members or send money back to the older daughters. i just think it's -- it's -- these are people who feel very desperate and are taking risks with their families. the kind of risks that we don't have to do in a normal day in the united states.
but that's not because they're a threat to the europeans. it's because they really are looking for opportunity and trying to have a sense that there's hope -- they can have hope for a better life. >> i pray that you're right. thank you, mr. chairman. you've been very indulgent. i yield back. >> thank you. dr. bozeman? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here. we apprec yate your hard work. there's some confusion about what the gulf states are doing. can you elaborate on that? you know, what they're doing in regard to the numbers that they're accepting as far as syrian refugees. >> they're not accepting syrian refugees. they are giving -- syrians to come work in their countries, which is helping some families get out of harm's way and to support themselves. >> so that's where the claim of saudi arabia that they've got a couple --
>> they have a lot of syrians living there right now who are working in jobs and have work visas. so, that's a good thing for those families. if they lose their jobs, well, leave the country that's a question we'd like to ask. we'd like to see more countries be open to resettling refugees the way we do. and right now the u.s. is the world leader in doing that. and traditionally canada, austral australia, uk, new zealand are the other countries that take sizable number of refugees. so part of our mission is to encourage countries to do more and what we're seeing some of their own publics are looking for that now and asking for that. what europe is doing is looking in to having that as part of a package of things they'll do to deal with the stream of people headed their way. >> what are the top three or four things that the
europeans -- what are their top three or four problems that they've got as they manage the crisis? >> the biggest issues is, you know, the -- europe has a common border now, the eu does, but it's a very porous border in terms of italy and greece and the coastline. different countries have different abilities to manage and secure their borders and to vet people coming across. and then there are different policies, not only from country to country but also sometimes within a country for vetting refugees and determining who can stay. so, i believe you're going to be hearing from in the second panel some european leaders, so it's probably best for them to describe that. but that's my thumbnail impression of what the problem is right now. >> you mentioned the borders. are there any other policies that you feel like are driving the ability to get into europe?
does that make sense? any of the european policies perhaps are driving -- >> it's not just a question of entering greece. it's also leaving turkey and is there a coast guard there. that's one of the things that's being discussed as part of the eu negotiations with turkey about what else can be done so there's -- >> kind of in line with congressman burgess, among those involved in the mixed migration cry in europe, what percentage -- and, again, and also this would pertain to us. but what percentage are seeking asylum are estimated to be migrants and the countries involved there as opposed to what percentage are estimated to be refugees and from which countries. >> i probably have this in this enormous book in front of me. the -- >> the scenario that you described earlier, you know, with people in regard to the
young -- the young man coming, you mentioned jobs, you know, things leak that, so that would be more migrant than refugee. >> so, if you look at these pie charts down here, the dark pink area are people who are considered refugees. recognized as refugees based on those coming. and then the lighter pink is those who have been determined to not qualify as a refugee. soet starts to give you a picture of that -- on the western balkans route certainly most are fleeing war are syrians, iraqis, afghans or violence. some are fleeing a repressive government. and forced conscription into their national service. for other parts of africa it's
less refugees and more economic migrants. but for jerns, for example, some would be refugees if they are fleeing boca haram in northern nigeria. >> thank you. >> thank you so much for your work. thank you for being here today and many of my questions and concerns have been discussed already, but just quickly as far as i haven't heard you talk much about reaction of local populations in europe and concern of how they are responding to this significant impact on their countries as far as political parties or some upheaval reacting to the changes that are coming to their countries because of this and certain regions maybe having significant numbers of refugees there. what from the state department what are you sensing there?
what concern do you have? and what can we do maybe to help ease some of that fear or uncertainty or the process that they're working through there with this great influx of refugees? >> well, i think you see european republics responding in a number of ways. some are quite welcoming to the refugees and some of them are not welcoming at all. and there is, you know, a lot of attention to the rise of parties that are xenophobic and some anti-immigrant or refugee in various countries of western europe. so, i'll leavet to european xnces to discuss that. i think what the u.s. can do that we are doing is invite people to come here and see how our refugee resettlement program works. because even though it's -- like i say not a luxurious program, it's a public/private partnership that relies on a lot
why not 5g 5,000? was it scientific? who calculated the number to get to 10,000? secondly, you know, eu ambassador david o'sullivan will be testifying shortly before this commission and lays out a number of things the europeans have done and continue to do dozens of initiatives including funding like us and other initiatives but he also points out that we've launched rescuing operations poseidon and triton and tripled our presence at sea over 22,000 lives have been saved. the question is the 6th fleet is deployed and there's 26 countries of europe that are part of that effort. triton, for example. are we collaborating? is the 6th fleet collaborating with the rescue efforts at sea? what is our role there? and finally there's a very good point talking about long-term trends.
two of them he notes. why now? why are people, you know, leaving and coming to europe and potentially to the united states? he said they've lost hope in a political solution to the war. and then after so many years in exile resources have run out and living conditions have deteriorated two long-term trends but he said the trigger is the humanitarian funding shortfall, the program cut of 30% and have just driven people to the point where they don't have food and they uproot and leave even their meager existence there. is that true? do you agree with that assessment? >> on the second question first, i do think that the cuts in the world food program rations and the food voucher values did send a signal, not from the united states, but it was interpreted as a signal from the world, that the international community was losing interest and things were going to get harder for refugees
in these countries. so, that -- i think many of us feel if we could go back in time that there would have been much more investment in that. and like i say, the u.s. is the leading donor to the world food program so this is not the fault of the united states. but it is a fault of the collective international community that that was allowed to happen. was it the one single trigger? i don't know. we've talked about push-and-pull factors, but i think it was a factor definitely. last december the u.n. high commission for refugees had a very interesting dialogue. he organizes sort of a more informal meeting every december on a concern, a protection concern, and this past year it was protection at sea. so, i asked the u.s. coast guard to come along with us to that discussion in geneva which doesn't usually happen that we have a joint -- our bureau with
coast guard discussion, but i thought that they are so thoughtful in how they do things in the caribbean that it would be useful for them to be part of the discussion. and also there were members of the italian navy who also came, so it was a really unusual meeting where we had nongovernmental organizations, governments, and then coast guards and navys present. i know that u.s. navy, u.s. coast guard make a priority of saving lives no matter who is approaching their ship and who is in distress nearby. so, i'm sure without knowing the details, that the 6th fleet p y plays a lifesaving role in mediterranean. but i'm not the expert on how they're working with the european efforts and so i'll leave that to the next panel.
>> again, the 10,000 number, how was that arrived? you could get back to us about the 6th fleet i think it would be very helpful to the commission to know and i know they would never pass someone who is in distress but are they working with these two european union efforts? >> on the 10,000 number, we were already planning to increase our numbers to between 5,000 to 8,000 and the president decided bring a few more than that so that's how the 10,000 number was arrived at. >> joined by commissioner cohen. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chair. first i want to thank you for holding this hearing. it's such an important issue and so important that america do what america has done so many times in the past to offer our shores as a place of refuge to people who have been endangered by political conditions in their countries. and i think back personally to
the situation with jews who were not accepted in this country on ships during the '40s and maybe the '30s and i'm sure they met a disastrous outcome because we didn't open our shores at the time. and we should learn from those mistakes and i believe we will. i hope that the president will allow for a parole relationship and bring in the refugees who have been cleared who are not any way the best that we can ascertain a threat to our country but are in need of refugee status. and i think it's part of our country's -- what makes our country great and what makes us the greatest country on earth and as the pope reminded us we were all immigrants and the only people that weren't immigrants were the victims of the greatest slaughter ever, the native american indians as immigrants we need to remember as the pope
told us the golden rule and do unto others as you'd do unto you. and i think about my possible ancestors on the ship to st. louis that were not accepted i think we need to be the great country that we are and accept as many folks as we can and save them from the ravages of isis and the terrors of war in syria. the food program was cut back as i understand it. was there any issue with funding from the food program? >> yes. the food for peace office at the u.s. agency for international development leads u.s. government in relations with the world food program. the world food program is headed by an american from chicago who -- and their headquarters in is rome. we have a very close relationship with them also because sometimes our budget is used when there are food pipeline breaks in terms to of the pipeline of food reaching refugees in hard-to-reach places primarily in africa. so, the u.s. is the top donor to the world food program year in
and year out. it's something i think we're very proud of as americans that we don't want people going hungry, but other countries were not keeping up, keeping pace with their contributions as we were. and it wasn't enough for the people running the program in the region to continue to provide benefits to as many refugees as they would have liked. so, what they did they targeted the most vulnerable, neediest refugees and they cut back, then, both in the number of people they were reaching and the value of the food vouchers they were giving them. and it may -- as we were just discussing it may have been a trigger for people deciding to leave the region and try to make it to europe. >> and which countries -- was the american -- our contribution remained constant, is that correct? or was there a cut in funding on our side? >> it's not a cut in funding on our side because we're -- both the humanitarian assistance that
usaid gets through the food for peace program and the office of foreign disaster assistance and our budget have been well funded by congress in the last several years and so one of my messages today are thank you very much. because we are the world leader in providing this humanitarian assistance. and right now we have about $3 billion and aid has about $3 billion in food and disaster assistance that together makes a $6 billion contribution which is sizable to needs around the world. the problem is the needs are -- the list of crises is growing. the old crises continue even as new ones erupt, you know, we're praying that there will be peace in south sudan and potentially peace in yemen and places where there have been efforts to resolve conflicts can happen so we can use our precious resources for these very challenging situations. >> were there other countries that cut back on their financial
contribution? >> i don't have the details for you but my sense was they either cut back or they weren't keeping pace with the growth which we were able to do thanks to country. >> and which countries were those? >> we were talking before there's a group of traditional donors which are western europe, u.s., canada, japan, australia, new zealand, so collectively we were unable to keep pace. but i think the u.s. did its share. then there are the gulf states where they are sometimes some of them are charitable particularly charitable and write big checks and sometimes not and it's very -- they tend to give in very one-off situations and so we'd like to see more uniform giving, routine giving from the gulf states. and then there are other countries that just do not make a habit of providing assistance through humanitarian assistance. they prefer to do other ways of engaging with the world. i mentioned china and russia
before as two countries on the permanent five of the u.n. security council but they're not part of the traditional donors. >> what you tell me it sounds like and it's probably an obvious answer but the democracies seem to be pretty good in caring for other people and the totalitarian regimes and dictatorships don't so it kind of flows from what they give to their own they don't give to others either. >> it's called a western donors but now we see japan, korea, korea has become a regular donor and didn't used to be. at one point it was aid recipient. so i don't think it has to be a western enterprise. i think thattet can be -- >> but they're all democracies that you say are keeping up with it. it's the democracies. that's a good thing. >> part of it may be publics expect this from their governments in democracies and make it known that they want to see this happen.
you know, the gulf states can be very charitable. giving during ramadan especially goes up, you know, it's a traditional practice in muslim societies but it's just not something that can be part -- that right now is part of an annual contribution that can be relied on by u.n. leaders. >> maybe ramadan should be every day of the week. like christmas. >> christmas. >> exactly. exactly. who are the people -- i know who are the leaders in congress on this? >> how many times do you think i've testified before you, mr. smith? he's very used to -- he's very interested in our issues so, yeah, he's definitely a leader. i met senator bozeman before and we had a talk about the syrian refugees it was after you went i think to turkey or something. there's been a lot of visitors to turkey and jordan which i
find very good in terms of helping me explain to others what -- what is going on and then senator shaheen just came from greece. i haven't been to greece lately. i would have liked to have gone to greece. i get other countries to go to. but it really helps us when you all travel and go out and meet refugees. but one doesn't have to go overseas to meet refugees, of course. there are a lot of refugee families in the united states who can talk about the experiences they've had and what their relatives are going through. >> thank you for your good work and thank you, chairman smith, for your good work as well. >> thank you very much, commissioner cohen. i'd like to thank you, madam secretary, for your extensive answers and for your work on behalf of those who are suffering the refugees and displaced persons and look forward to seeing you again very soon. thank you. i appreciate that very much. we all do. i'd like to now welcome our
second panel. the commission is very pleased to welcome shelly pitterman the unhcr regional represent for the u.s. aid in the caribbean. during his 30-year career with unhcr he's served on the ground in sudan, guinea, burundi as well as the unhcr headquarters in geneva and, of course, here in washington. he was also sucunded to the work release, the u.n. works relief in works agency where he worked with the palestinian refugees in jordan. thank you for joining us, mr. pitterman. we'll then hear from ambassador of the republic of serbia to the united states, dirj makovichp he's served as serbia's ambassador to the u.s. since february of this year. before his time in washington he was a foreign policy adviser to the serbian prime minister. he currently holds his country the osce chairmanship for 2015
so thank you for being here. we'll then hear from shawn callahan chief operating officer of catholic relief services the official international humanitarian agency of the catholic community here in the united states. mr. callahan is responsible for overseas u.s. operations and human resources which for ensuring fidelity to the mission to preserve and uphold human life and they've done a magnificent job. i mentioned macedonia had a refugee camp and i lost track of the number of times i've been in a refugee camp and i saw the crs initials on the baseball cap. thank you so much for the work you have done and crs has done. and lastly eu ambassador to the united states david o'sullivan who is currently the senior representative of the european union in washington. prior to his current appointment he served as chief operating officer of the european external action service where he assisted the eu high representative for
foreign affairs and security policy and ensuring the sentsy and coordination of the eu's external policies strategies, instruments, missions and the 140 eu diplomatic delegations throughout the world. we deeply appreciate the appearance of the ambassador here today as a gesture of friendship and cooperation with the european union. we recognized the normal congressional oversight of authority over witnesses does not hold for diplomatic witnesses and we recognize his official relationship to the united states government. ambassador o'sullivan, thank you, again, for taking the time out and all of you for being here to provide your expertise and guidance and wisdom to the commission. like to begin with mr. pitterman. >> thank you very, very much mr. chairman. it's for me a great honor and previous to be here. it's my first time since i took up my assignment as the regional representative of unhcr in 2013. so much has already been said by you, mr. chairman, and others in
relation to the current situation, the numbers, the reasons for flight and so on. so i will not repeat those remarks and, therefore, try to keep it short. but i did want to nevertheless mention a few numbers that have not been stated and a couple of other themes that might also provoke some conversation. it's important i think to remember that now we are at 60 -- more than 60 million refugees forcibly -- forcibly displaced people around the world. that translates to 42,500 people every day. there have been more than 15 new conflicts in the last five years. and none of the old conflicts have been resolved. so, we're also witnessing the low point in the numbers of people who are voluntarily returning to their countries and
so we are facing not only protracted situations and new emergencies, we are facing protracted emergencies. and the first and foremost on our agenda as the u.n. refugee agency is the mega-crisis in syria and iraq which for the first time in years has now hit europe. as the high commissioner said, the poor have come to the home of the rich and the world has taken notice. more than 600,000 -- 643,000 people have arrived through greece and italy. the trends of the flow have changed over recent months from the central mediterranean to the eastern mediterranean. and the movement that is now very much on our television screens and newspapers, yesterday's images i don't know if you saw them on the bbc at the border between serbia and croatia, i was shocked myself and i believe it's just
unbelievable that that's happening these days, people in wheelchairs stuck in the mud in freezing rain temperatures. that having been said, it's clear that this is overwhelmingly a refugee movement. these are people who are -- who were forcibly displaced from their homes. 90% of the people who are arriving are coming from the ten top refugees-producing countries in the world. syria first and foremost. as well as afghanistan, iraq, nigeria, somalia and sudan. the conflict in syria has entered its fifth year. there's no end in sight as we spoke earlier you made reference, mr. chairman, to the lack of hope, to the desperation, to the increasing impoverishment of refugees leading them now to take the hard decision even in the cold as we're seeing these days to
cross to europe. like all other refugee movements, stemming the tide is not an effective policy objective. building barriers as we've seen in some european states or pushing back refugees as we've seen in other european states doesn't end elsewhere around the world simply doesn't work. to quote the high commissioner for receive fufgys, those who believe that the easy solution is to close doors should forget about it. when a door is closed, people will open a window. if the window is closed, people will dig a tunnel. if there's a basic need for survival, a basic need for protection, people will move. whatever obstacles are put in their way, those obstacles will only make their journeys more dramatic and that we're seeing in europe, we're seeing it as well in central america, that there's then a temptation, a
need, for receive fufgys to resort to smugglers and traffickers in order to find security and safety. what matters is the management of the flow. not stemming the tide. and in europe there's evidence that the flow has not been very well managed up until now. and there is a pressure by force of circumstance, but also leadership in europe and in the european union to resolve that and to address the problem in a more unified and coherent way. unhcr is active itself in trying to find a comprehensive solution. first, by focusing on saving the lives of refugees. and addressing humanitarian protection needs especially at the points of transit, first arrival and destination. we're working hard to as well strengthen protection systems
through capacity building for asylum procedures in europe but also in the eastern horn of africa from where some of the refugees are coming as well as from north africa and reinforcing the availability of protection and solutions in the regions where they first find security and safety. so we have been working to provide emergency lifesaving assistance, strengthening first-line reception capacity, providing information, simple matters such as even interpretation, protection monitoring, advocacy, working with the several society and focusing as well on unaccompanied and separated children of whom there are several thousand who have been registered to date. we think that the united states has a key leadership role to play. always has and hopefully always will. not only in terms of humanitarian funding, a subject which has been already discussed where we have the gaps and where
we count on congress and the state department to provide support, but also in terms of humanitarian diplomacy and resettlement. most refugee want to return home but because of the conflict, wars and persecution, many refugees are unable to repatriot. they live in perilous circumstances and so we identify those who require resettlement solution for their own protection as well as part of a strategic approach to burden-sharing. according to the unhcr current assessments about 10% of syrian refugees about 400,000 people will need resettlement over the coming years. we focused our resettlement efforts on identifying and referring the most vulnerable refugees in jordan, turkey, lebanon and iraq as well as in egypt. so far we've referred more than 45,000 syrians for refugee resettlement globally with 20,000 made to the united states
and as you mentioned earlier, mr. chairman, we're quite encouraged that there is now an acceleration of the process of processing of refugees for resettlement to the united states. one point that hasn't been mentioned before that i'd like to highlight now is that unhcr has been encouraging states to offer other legal avenues for access to safety and security. resettlement is one. but we see as well family reunification, other types of humanitarian visas as an opportunity for syrians and other refugees for that matter to gain access rather than having to risk dangerous journeys in order to arrive in a secure place. and this might also address the willingness of the diaspora community to receive their family members from places
where -- to receive their family members from countries of asylum you in. but still resettlement will remain a solution for only a small percentage of the syrian refugees and that's why there has to be a comprehensive international response to the syrian humanitarian crisis. one that also includes robust humanitarian assistance to syrian refugees and to the governments and communities where they're hosted in turkey, lebanon, jordan and iraq. this will have to be accomplished with development actors and with development budgets as well. as the high commissioner said in his closing remarks to the executive committee earlier this month, there is no way that global humanitarian budgets will be able to face the enormous challenges related to the dramatic growth of the humanitarian problem in the world. unhcr therefore appeals to the united states to continue to exercise leadership and helping
refugees in the host communities and asylum countries to recover and grow after the trauma of flight. because the u.s. government and the american people know better than most just how richly refugees and migrants can indeed contribute to the political, economic and cultural fabric of a nation. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you so very much. ambassador? >> ladies and gentlemen and members of the commission, thank you for the invitation to testify before you today. thank you for the invitation to testify before you today on the issue of the migrant crisis in europe. i would like also to thank you for organizing this important hearing -- >> could you just bring the mike a little closer. we're having a hard time hearing. >> thank you. >> i would like also to thank you for organizing this important hearing which highlight the fact that the complexity and the magnitude of
this problem makes it incumbent on all of us to give full and serious attention to it. i'm here to offer the views of the republic of syria as well as the country which is at the very center of the western balkan migration routes. today's global migration scenario shows how migratory movements are driven often inseprably by traditional economic pull and push factors as well as by instability and lack of security in a growing number of countries. the migrant crisis bursting through and over political, admin strative borders speaks of the interrelatedness of far-away countries and peoples highlighting the need for the responsible approach for the quest for a lasting and comprehensive solution to this burning issue. partial and limited steps are not a solution. in the process of solving these problems the support of all the member states are the most
important organizations including the osc are of paramount importance. the osc region is witnessing the largest influx of refugees in decades. apart from being a significant economic challenge, this is a process with potentially very serious security implications and a cause of concern in regards to respect for human rights. as the international community is struggling to find responses that reconcile refugee protection and human rights commitments with security consideration the osc reflects on the role it could play in supporting the shared interests of its participating states and mediterranean partners for cooperation. as the third largest regional security arrangement under the chapter eight of the united nations charter the osc is a distinctive position to contribute to the handling and resolution of the crisis. its comprehensive and
multidimensional approach is unique. it is worth mentioning that the oscs do not have a mandate to tackle the crisis directly. it is dealing with the security crisis primarily human trafficking and transnational criminal activities and threats as well as border management. while the primary responsibility for these commitments lies with the participating states, the osc's mandated with reminding us about our commitments and assisting the participating states in implementing them. traditionally osc decisions have largely framed its mandate on migration within the second dimension. as a result of the office of the coordinator for economic environmental activities has been tasked with assisting the implementation of ocs commitments particularly in the areas of comprehensive labor, migration management, the labor migration policies as well as migration action and
harmonization. over the years the osc has also widened its third dimension mandate including migrants integration and the protection of human rights of the vulnerable migrant groups. the office of democratic institutions and human rights promote the development and implementation of legal, regulatory frameworks that respect the rights of migrants with special attention to the most vulnerable categories. in this conflict i would like to underline that during the negotiations on the osc budget for 2015, serbia as a presiding country has supported the proposal by the u.s. and the commission to enhance the field of fighting human trafficking to increasing the budget. osc field operations have also been increasingly involved in migration related activities and projects although they have been unevenly man dating reflecting the diversity of arrangement
with host countries and different political priorities and needs. as the presiding country serbia recognizes the importance of these issues and is triing to provide more active and concrete approach to osc in addressing them. osc in addressing them. in the light of this bleak situation, it is paramount that all the mechanisms that we are -- that are designed and adopted by the participating states to oversee implementation commitments are strong and fumpbs i functioning. this year, a set of discussions on migration and human trafficking including the humanitarian contact group. in may, the transnational trafficking department, annual expert meeting, which focused on trafficking in human beings and migrations within the context of the fighting against organized crime. at the initiative of our
presidency, a joint meeting of the secretary committee on the environment commitment committee and human dimension committee on migration was held in vienna on october the 6th. the osc country supports the united states to reach concrete ideas in terms of migration. crisis should be put into the context of the preparation for the upcoming mediterranean conference. as well as the osc counsel in belgrade. for the forthcoming meeting in belgrade. as we start negotiating in the coming days, we intend to incorporate into the draft decisions as many concrete accommodations as possible. mr. chairman, allow me to point out that serbia is not dealing with this crisis only in the capacity of the osc country. the migrant wave from the conflict areas have not bipassed
my country. serbia is not the final destination for most of the migrants and retchies. it has found itself at the very center of the migration route. and almost all migrants and refugees coming from syria, afghanistan, iraq and other unstable areas, have transported to the countries of western and northern europe. it is important to notice that a number of migrants were numbers rising since 2009 and thus this is not a completely new problem. what is essentially new is in the past few months we are facing a dramatic increase in their numbers. from the beginning of this year, the republic of serbia has registered over 240,000 illegal migrants. with tendencies for these number to only increase. the numbers who enter our territory are being registered and provided accommodation and
food and medical care. the way we have dealt with this migrant crisis. namely are approach and empathy. supported by eu member countries as well as the migrants themselves and my the arab countries. however, it is obvious that the burden we bear during this crisis is becoming increasingly difficult. specifically aside from the financial costs of the current crisis, serbia is dealing with over 500,000 refugees and internally displaced persons from the former yugoslavia in the 1990s. in a nutshell, all of the experiences we had during this period have demonstrated the solution for this crisis cannot be based on partial and local steps such as closing borders or building fences. cooperation within the international community is a must. it is necessary to reach a comprehensive and sustainable
solution as soon as possible at the eu level to include also transit countries of the western balkan route. we wish to be part of this solution. we are already -- we all take our share of responsibility. i can assure you that serbia will continue to be a credible eu partner and treat the migrants in a manner that is fully consistent with european and international standards. we are also committed to participating in this. aside from greater solidarity, there should be an increased willingness for a political response to the roots of the crisis. that means more readiness to seek a comprehensive solution and for creating conditions for sustainable peace and development in the region affected by the crisis. the alternative is much worse. that could lead to further worsening of the situation. it could cause a humanitarian crisis with these consequences.
at the end, i would like to emphasize serbia's already cooperated with the eu, the united states, neighboring countries, and the community community, including the peaceful solution of the lasting solution. thank you. i am looking forward to your questions. >> chairman, esteemed members of the committee, thank you for calling this hearing together. particularly as it addresses the needs and safety and well being of hundreds of thousands of people. i am sean callahan, catholic relief services, which is the official overseas relief and development agency of the catholic church of the united states. and we serve 100 million people annually in over 100 countries throughout the world. we are also a member of international, which is a network of 200 different country
offices throughout the world and that is our natural partner network. i recently traveled to the balkans to witness first hand the response to the refugees that crs was doing there. currently working with its partners in the most affected countries. in a region that historically had religious strife, we found a great vibrancy in interreligious work there. catholic relief work with the muslim community to address the needs of the local -- of the local communities, as well as the migrants coming in. in addition to that, we're working very closely with the local governments and increasing that coordination as we move forward. i would also like to say we're also receiving not only great generosity from people within the united states, but also of islamic relief and the mormon church here to have an interfaith effort to, as far as the resources go, and this is
supporting that effort in europe. so we're using private funding to assist these people. we've committed over 2 million in the coming year. also like to give a nod to the ambassador. as in serbia, we did notice first hand, as i was on the border, right on the border of serbia and croatia, where thousands of people had been this weekend, and we notice the outpouring of the serbian people. and frankly i think serbia could be an example in the way that many of the people there were coming together to assist the refugees. in some countries, it seems to be pulling it apart. in serbia, it's actually pulling people together. i think we should highlight that great example of serbia and maybe see if we can duplicate that in other areas. who were the people who were coming and who were the people we're seeing? i think one of the examples was a young man named khalid who came with his wife and four children. who we saw on this neumann's land border where many of the people rested. they rest between the border of
serbia and croatia because they're afraid of being caught in one country or another. so they were in the neumann's land there. their home had been bombed in aleppo. they were threatened in that community and had to leave. we asked how they got here. ca khalid said, i was swimming along the boat. it was a rubber boat and very slow so i could keep pace. rona is 2 1/2 years old. khalid's 8-year-old daughter said, my daddy is very strong. when we went from syria to turkey, he walked over hills and mountains. most of the time he was carrying jude and rona in a backpack and sometimes he carried me. despite the generosity and hospitality of the governments of jordan, lebanon and turkey, the scale of the suffering and the need has outpaced their ability to respond to the refugee crisis both from syria and iraq. crs and our partners have assisted nearly 800,000 people
and spent over $110 million in the last three years in response to this crisis. some addressing the crucial immediate needs of people. but also trying to provide livelihoods to people so they can eek out a life and so they don't have to migrate. although the holy father has called all of us to reach out to those people who do migrate, we are working very hard to work with the local countries and communities there to ensure that people don't have to migrate, that there is security and opportunity for them in these countries. the conflict has entered a new phase. many have given up the idea of returning to syria any time soon. but unless their children can go to school and parents can provide for their families in the refugee host communities, then local integration is unrealistic. many of the refugees in lebanon and jordan, particularly religious minorities, have not registered with the u.n., and
many are living outside with local communities. and as the assistance contracts, they move on to other locations. there's been many questions on why young men, and as they're coming, and we found if a family member can find work, they will send back remittances. the rest of the family can remain in the region where the cultural and family ties and the cost of living make life easier. similarly, the cost of transporting a whole family, for many of these people at this time after four years of war is too great for them to transport the whole family because many do have to pay traffickers to allow them to cross various borders. similarly, the issue you raised earlier, conscription is a big issue. those coming out of syria cannot come out legally out of syria, they have to sneak through the lines. they're either conscripted by the government or by a local rebel group. and so they sneak in and then try to get out of the local