tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 21, 2015 2:00am-4:01am EDT
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 emergencies 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 migration and 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 du dupe -- 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 resettling 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 it was said 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 leaders 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 then yield to my colleagues because we all 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 syrian a rival -- arrivals to the u.s. have 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
wolf packs, 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 that will be made part of the record because i think it is very 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. i mentioned the young man who came in during the kosovo crisis. i'm sure he wasn't the only one, but it happened right inside 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. then i have a couple other questions and then i'll yield to commissioner pitts. >> 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 2015 1,682. so almost 1700. >> 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 crisis, 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 had 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 is 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 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 the security process, the refugees have helped in 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 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 on these interviews. they're very patient. i've sat in on some of the interviews. they had me sit in on the ones maybe 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, i'm the author of the trafficking victims protection act. i'm 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 kind of exploitation of women does not occur, and whether or not our tip office is collaborating with people in europe who i know personally carefully 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 persons office 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 is -- 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 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, they 100% share the concern, but they're no in the position to run the 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 for a job and are 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, as i
mentioned, 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 nationalities 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, fighting. >> 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. the osce has a history of working with unhcr.
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 today and tomorrow to discuss common challenges to european security, including the migration protection and trafficking persons concerns. we support efforts by osce in this regard. and u.s. ambassador is leading the u.s. delegation to the conference. we also believe osce will be putting together an appeal, so that our europe bureau colleagues will be taking a look at funding. >> thank you, madam secretary, thank you. >> 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. again we met with officials from unhcr, people at reception centers who are dealing with the crisis, was that they hoped that the united states would be able to do more to help. so you've talked a little bit about some of the challenges that we have in terms of vetting refugees. but can you elaborate a little bit on the obstacles to bringing refugees in and then also to the challenge of providing humanitarian assistance? u know that the united states is one of the cop countries in terms of providing humanitarian assistance. but my understanding is that the u.n. appeal is only 41% funded.
and are there other ways in wh which we can urge countries to be more support i of those humanitarian efforts? >> thank you for your trip to the region which i heard about when i was in turkey. i'll be very interested -- >> we learned a lot. >> i'll answer the questions but i'll still curious to hear 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 determining who are the people who will benefit the most from restarting their lives in the united states and also ensuring that our security measures are good so that we keep out anyone with bad intentions. that's the tricky think to do. and it involves several u.s. government agency, involves a couple of major international organizations and it involves
many not for profit nongovernment mental organizations on both sides of the ocean. so it's -- many hands help the refugees along the way. and that takes time. the good part is that it's a very successful program that works year in and year out. we've brought, you know, 70,000 refugees to the united states from all around the world in the past three years. i meet refugees 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 life saving 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 that the program should continue and should 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. within one to three months of arriving refugees have to get -- able bodied refugees have to get a job. and many refugees, if they don't speak english well they have to start over at the bottom of the economic ladder. but they do it and they're very -- employers tell us they're very good, highly motivated workers. children get enrolled in school. the younger the kids are, the more quickly they adapt. older kids take a little longer. but generally the program is great. >> sure. i'm sorry to interrupt but i actually support the program. the question i'm really asking is are there ways for us to be for efficient, do the same kind of vetting but to do it in a way that is more efficient, better
coordinates all of the various players that 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 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 month to bring people. 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 timespan that it takes to bring refugees without cutting corners on security. >> can you respond on the 41% of funding that's 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 the most effective operational organizations overseas, and we get very solid support, bipartisan support from the house and senate. it's not enough funding. we need other countries to provide assistance and do more. first the traditional donors may have been suffering from fatigue. i felt in the last year or two that their contributions while increasing were not keeping pace with the needed increases. certainly europe now is very focused on needing to provide
more assistance to help the refugees who are in the middle east and are displaced inside syria and also refugees in the surrounding neighboring countries. then for a couple of years now we have 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 one-time only checks written. they're not always through the u.n. they're nothing you can count on will happen again the follow 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 put, you know, 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 kbufl states become regular annual donors in a dependable way with the united nations. and 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 the way that the 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 businesses and from the public. so for me it's been 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. so now the question is how can we make this is sustaining interest. americans can be generous but prefer to give after natural disasters. like the earthquake in haiti, i believe half of american households were reported to give. it's a sense that the situation in the middle east is messy and there's a lot of bad guys running around and we don't want to do anything to support them. but i know there are a lot of nth families being victimized by terrorists who deserve help. i think when americans see the faces of the families they realize these are people we have to help, we must help, we feel compelled to help. i would like to build on the generosity we've seen in the recent weeks. 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 mr. chairman. i have other questions but i'll reserve them for the next panel. >> dr. burgess. >> thank you mr. chairman and thank you madam secretary for being here today. you said in your opening statement that one of the driver of the flood of refugee 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 jeremy and being received in germany and may have through social media and plain old media suggested to people this was the time to go and that they would be able to make it all of the way. it's probably a question best answered by europeans. but without knowing all of the -- without being an expert
on the specific details, i think that was part of what was happening. >> you mentioned social media and that was what i was going to get to, was social media one of the drivers that led to this in. >> 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 1700 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 in. >> yes. >> and of that 1700 how many were not approved and what then happened to them? >> no. the 1700 were the number that were approved. i don't have the numbers that
were disapproved or rejected to come. we can try to get that for you. >> and then the numbers are going to go up so there is going to be a scaling issue with department of homeland security being able to keep up with the numb numbers that you're asking them to vet sb is that correct? >> that is correct. >> what will the discussions you've had with the secretary of 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 for a couple of years now of inner agency meeting that the nhc pulled together and deputies committee meetings and even a principles committee meeting or two. different levels of the executive branch that bring together the state department, health and human services because they provide assistance to the state --
>> i have some questions i want to ask you about that. go on. >> dhs and 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 numbers of refugees. all around the world, not just in 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 counter parts 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 tradeoffs 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 how much do we then spend to bring refugee to the united states. and right now we're spending about $400 million of our budget for that. most of our funding goes overseas but sit sizable. then 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. hiring more interviewers will help address that issue. 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 sense, but peaked last summer at the u.s.-mexico border. so they're responsible for the 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 amendment is looking, working with onb 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 we need to be doing more work in providing answers to. >> well, of course it's not your argument but orr specifically in my opinion needs to work for closely with the states that are going to be affected by the people who are then resettled in those communities. there are stresses placed upon our local governments, our school dribltistricts because o numbers of people that are resettled in those communities. >> i think that is my responsibility. >> i had this discussion with secretary nuland 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 reset md within their district boundaries or their state boundaries. that would be extremely helpful. my personal experience is that has not happened. i've not been as effective as other congressmen or senators. it's something that does occur, something you hear about from your local folks all of the time. >> it's a requirement of the program and we've made it more specific, what has to be done. that the nine groups that resettle refugees in the united states with us, not for profit, 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 villages, their homes and their cities. i recently at the end of august traveled to spartanburg, south carolina because congressman
trey gowdy had questions about whether specific consultation was done. 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 -- >> you know where the people are going. it's not a surprise to you. >> 7,479 refugees went to texas last year. i'm sure a lot of refugees would like to live in texas. 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 divulging that information just before. and i'm going to conclude. chairman smith made the observation about the number of
refugees that were young males, chairman pitts asked you a similar sort of question. really give us some comfort here. when you lk at those pictures and they do seem to be predominantly military age males with little women and children scattered throughout. i think chairman pitts had some statistics. why is that? are these young men fleeing conscription? is that perhaps a darker preface afoot. why does it appear that way? >> i think for young men coming directly out of syria, part of it is they are trying to avoid serve 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 want a normal life. for those fleeing from nearby countries, not fleeing but
leaving, it's partly because they don't have jobs that are legal jobs. many are working but they're working in an underground economy where they can be exploited and abused and underpaid. that's not appreciated by their neighbors. they're looking for a place they can go to finish their education, some of them, or get their kids in school. a lot of children are out of school from the syrian refugee community. and they can, you know, practice their -- acquire skills or practice the professions that they've acquired. they're moving to europe because they think they'll have a better life in the places where they've been. >> i guess what i don't understand is why they're leaving and not giving preface to their wives and mothers, girlfriends? >> i think they're leaving their families in places 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 sere yo, 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 had left two daughters behind and gone on this dangerous trip on boat from turkey from greece with a five-year-old and i said, wasn't it dangerous? and he said yes. but she could not afford to live in turkey because the rents were high. she felt the best thing for the family was to go ahead and then send for family members or send money back to the older daughters. i just think 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 on a normal day in the united states. it's not because they're a threat to the europeans. it's because they really are looking for opportunity and trying to be a sense that they can have hope for a better life. >> i pray that you're right. thank you, mr. chairman. you've been indulgent. i yield back. >> dr. boseman? >> thank you, plrmt chairman. thank you for being here. we appreciate 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 more visas to syrian 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 who have working in jobs and have work visas. so that's a good thing for those families. if they lose their jobs, will they have to leave the country, that would be a question i would want to ask. but what we would like to see is 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, australia, u kx and new zealand are the other countries that take numbers of refugees, sizable numbers of refugees. part of our mission is to encourage country to do more. some of their own publics are looking for that now or asking for that. and what europe is doing is looking into 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 that, you know, europe has a common border now, the eu does, but it's a very porous border in terms of italy, greece and the coastline. different countries have different ability to see cure their borders and to vet people coming across. and then there are different policies not only from country to country but 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 driving -- >> it's not just a question of entering greece, it's also leaving turkey and the coast guard there. that's one of the things being discussed as part of the eu negotiations with turkey about what else can be done. >> kind of in line the congressman burgess, among those involved in the mixed migration crisis in europe, what percentage -- and again this would pertain to us. what percentage seeking asylum are estimated to be migrants, 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 with people in regard to the young, the young man coming, you mentioned jobs, you know, things like 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, recognizes refugees based on those come ppg and then the light are pink is those who have been determined to not qualify as a refugee. so it starts to give you a picture of that -- on the western balkans route, certainly most are fleeing war, syrians, iraqis, afghans, or violence.
air treeians are fleeing an oppressive government and forced conscription into their national service. for other parts of africa, it's less refugees and more economic migrants. but for nigerians, for example, some would be refugees if they're fleeing boko haram in northern nigeria. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> commissioner haltry. >> thank you for being here today. just quickly, as far as i haven't heard you talk much about reaction of local populations in europe and concern of how they're 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 in 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 do to help maybe ease some of that fare or uncertainty or the process that they're working through there with this great influx of refugees. >> i think you see the european republicans respond in a number of way. some are quite welcoming to the refugees and some are not welcoming at all. and there is a lot of attention to the rise of parties that are xenophobic or anti-immigrant, anti-refugee in various countries of western europe. so i'll leave it to european witnesses to discuss that. i think what the u.s. can do that we are doing, is invite people to come here and see how
follow-up questions and then we'll conclude, although we have another member who just joined us. let me just ask, how was the 10,000 number arrived at? why not 15,000, why not 20? why not five? was it scientifically arrived at? who calculated that 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 that the europeans have done and continue to do, dozens of initiatives including funding like us to unhcr and other initiatives. but he points oubt we've launched rescue operations and tripled our presence at sea, over 122,000 lives have been saved. now my question is, the six fleet obviously is deployed, there's 26 countries of europe that are part of that effort, tritan, for example. are we corroborating with the
rescue efforts at sea? what is our role there? and finally, mr. pitterman makes a good point. why now? why are people, you know, up 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 after so many years in exile living conditions are deteriorated. but he said the trigger is the humanitarian funding shortfall, the wfp, the world food program's cut of 30% that's driven people to the point where they don't have food so they uproot and leave thaer meager existence there. 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 vouchers 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 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 the fault of the collective international community that that was allowed to happen. was it the one single trigger, 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 commissioner 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. it was an unusual meeting where we had nongovernmental organizations, governments and then coast guards and navies 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 of the six fleet plays a life saving role in the 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 at? if you could get back to us on the six 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 we'd bring a few more than that. that's how the 10,000 number was arrived at. >> joined by commissioner cohen. >> thank you. fist 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 as a jewish american to the place when jews were not accepted in this country on ships in 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. 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 in any way because of 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 our country the greatest country on the et. as the pope reminded us, we were all immigrants. the only people who weren't
immigrants were victims of one of the greatest slaughters ever, the american native, the american indians. as immigrants we need to remember, as the spoep told us, the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. as i think about possibly my ancestors that would have been on those ships to st. louis that were not accepted. i think we need to be the great country we are and accept as many folks as we can and save them from the war in syria. the food program was cut back, as i understand it. was there any issue with funding for the food program? >> yes. the food for peace office at the u.s. agency for national development leads u.s. government in relations with the world food program. the world food program is headed by an american from chicago and their headquarters is in rome. we have a close relationship with them because sometimes our budget is used when there are
food pipeline breaks in terms of the 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 that we're 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 was 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 trying to make it to europe. >> in 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 humanitarian assistance that usaid gets have been well-funded by congress in the last several years. my messages today are thank you very much. because we have the world leader in providing the humanitarian assistance. right now we have $3 billion and u.s. asd has $3 million which make as $6 billion contribution which is sizable to needs around the world. the problem is the needs -- the list of crises is growing. the old crises continue even as new ones erupt. we're praying that there will be peace in south sudan, potentially piece in yemen, places where there have been
efforts to resolve conflicts have happened so that we can use our precious resources for these very, 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 is they either cut back or weren't keeping pace with the growth which we were able to do thanks to congress. >> which countries were those in. >> we were talking before, there's a group of traditional donors, western europe, u.s., canada, korea, japan, australia and new deland. collectively we were unable to keep pace. but i think the u.s. did its share. then there's the gulf states where they are -- sometimes some of them are charitable, particularly charitable and write big checks and sometimes not. they tend to give in very one-off situations. we would like to see more uniformed giving, routine giving from the gulf states. then there are other countries
that 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, two countries that are on the permanent five of the u.n. security council but they're not part of the traditional donors. >> it's probably an obvious answer but the democracy seem to do good in caring for other people and the dictatorships don't. so it kind of flows. they give to their own, they don't give to others either. >> it's called 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 it can be much more sbshl naturalized. >> the western, europe, united
states, canada, it's the democracies. that's a good thing. >> part of it may be the publics expect this from their governments in democracies and make it known that they want to see this happen. the gulf states can be very charitable. giving during ramadan especially goes up. 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. >> and christmas. >> exactly. who are the people -- is chris a leader? who are the leaders in congress many. >> how many times do you think i've testified before you, mr. smith. he's very interested in our issues. so yeah, he's definitely a
leader. i met senator boseman before and we had a talk about the syrian refugees. it was after you went to turkey. there's been a lot of visitors to turkey and jordan which i found very good in helping me plain to others about what is going on. senator shaheen just came back from greece. i haven't been to greece lately. i would like to go to greece. i get other country to go to. 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 what can talk about -- probably in the room behind me who can talk about the experiences they've had and what their relatives are going through. >> thank you for your good work. >> thank you very much. i'd like to thank you, madam secretary for your extensive answers and for the work of prn
on behalf of those who are suffering and look forward to seeing you again very soon. thank you. [ inaudible ] >> i appreciate that. i'd like to welcome our second panel. the commission is pleased to welcome shelly pitterman, the regional representative for the u.s. aid in caribbean. during his 30-year career, mr. pitterman served on the ground in sudan, guinea as well as the unhcr headquarters in geneva and washington. he worked with the palestinian refugees in jordan. thanks for joining us, mr. pitterman. we'll hear from ambassador from the republican of serbia to the united states. the ambassador served as the ambassador to the u.s. since
february of this year. he was a foreign policy adviser to the serbia prime minister. he currently holds the osce chairman for 2015. we'll hear from sean 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 operations, u.s. operations and human resources and ensuring the fidelity to the mission to preserve and uphold human life. they've done a magnificent job. i've lost track of the number of times i've been in the refugee camp and i saw the initials on a baseball camp. thank you for the work you've 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 expersonal action service. the diplomatic service where he assisted the representative for foreign affairs and ensuring the consistency and coordination of the eu's external policies, strategies, instruments, missions and 140 diplomatic delegations throughout the world. we deeply appreciate the appearance of ambassador o'sullivan here today as a gesture of friendship and cooperation with the european union. we recognize that does not hold for diplomatic relations. ambassador o'sullivan, thank you for taking the time out, all of you for being here. like to begin now with mr. pitterman. >> thank you very, very much, mr. chairman. it's a great honor and privilege
to be here. it's my first time since i took up my regional assignment in 2013. so much has already been said by you, mr. chairman, and others, been anne richard 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 have at more than 60 million refugees, 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're 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. can 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 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 forcibly displaced from their homes. 90% of the people who are arriving are coming from the ten top refugee producing countries in the world. syria first and foremost, as well as afghanistan, air tree ya, iraq, nigeria, somalia and sudan. the conflict in syria has entered its fifth year. there's no end in site. as we spoke earlier, you made everyone to the lack of hope, to
the desperation, to the increasing impoverished. even in the cold to cross to europe. like all other refugee movements, stemming the tied is not an effective policy objective. building barriers as we've seen in some european states are pushing back refugees as we've seen in other european states doesn't -- and elsewhere around the world simply doesn't work. to quote the high commissioner for refugees, 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. we're seeing that in europe and in central america. that there is then a temptation, a need for refugees to resort to sma smugglers in order to find security and safety. what matters is the market 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 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 merge life saving assistance, strengthening first line reception, simping matters such as interpretation, protection monitoring, advocacy, working with the civil 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 already been 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 refugees want to return home. but because of the conflict wars and persecution, many refugees are unable to repay tree yat, they live in peril louse circumstances. so we identify those who require a resettlement solution for their own protection, as well as a strategic approach to burden sharing. according to unhcr current assessments, 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. we've referred 45,000 syrians for resettlement with 20,000 made to the united states. as you mentioned earlier, mr. chairman, we're quite encouraged that there is now an acceleration of the process of processing 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 reunificati 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. this might also address the willingness of the community to receive their family members from places where -- to receive their family members from countries of asylum now. 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 includes robust humanitarian asips tans to syrian refugees and to the governments and communities where they're hosted in turkey, lebanon, jordan and iraq. this will have to be established with development actors and with development budgets as well. as the high commissioner said in his closing remarks 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 appeals to the united states to continue to exercise leadership in helping refugees in the host communities and asylum communities to recover and grow. 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 very much. ambassador? thank you for the invitation to testify in front of you today. i would luke to thank few for organizing this important
hearing -- >> could you bring the mic a little closer? we're having a hard time hearing. >> i would like to thank you for organizing this important hearing which highlighted the fact that the come flexty and magnitude of the problem makes it uncouple bent upon all of us to give serious attention to it. > -- request for comprehensive
solution to the burning issue. partial and limited steps are another solution. in the process of solving the problem, the support of all of the member states are the most important organizations including the osc is of parliament importance. the osc is missing the largest influx. this is a process with potentially serious implications and a cause of concern in regards to respect for human rights. international communities struggling to find responses, protection and human rights commitment, considerations, the osc for its part reflects on the role it could play in supporting the shared interest of its participating states and med tear ran jane partners for
cooperation. it is worth mentioning that the osc do not have a mandate to tackle the crisis directly. the organization is dealing with the security challenges which derived from the migrant crisis, human trafficking as well as border management. the responsibility for the commitments lies with the participating states. the osc is mandated for reminding us of our commitments and asissing states in implementing them. as a result of the office of the coordinator for economic environmental activities has been tasked with assisting the implementation of osc
commitments, particularly in the areas of comprehensive labor, migration management, gender aspect of the labor migration as well as data collection and har mo nigh zags. over the years the osc widened its mandate in the protection of human rights. the office of democratic institution promotes the development and implementation that respect the right of migrants with respect to the most vulnerable categories. in this context i would like to underline that during the negotiations on the osc budgets for 2015, serbia, as a presiding country, supported the proposal by the u.s. to enhance active is in the field of human
trafficking. field operations have also been increasingly involved in migrations related activities and projects. reflecting the diversity of arrangements with host countries and different political priorities and needs. and is trying to provide more active and complete approach to the osc in addressing them. in the light of this bleak situation and looming instability, 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 functioning. this year serbia promoted 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 bypassed my country. serbia is not the final destination for most of the migrants and refugees. 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. >> i'd like to yield the floor to mr. callahan. >> 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, chief operating officer of 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. crs is 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 no man'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 no man'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. 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 anytime 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 countries so they're not sent back. as global leaders in the international and humanitarian response, the u.s. and europe must heed pope francis's call and find new ways to alleviate the suffering and protect the vulnerable. we at catholic relief services and our partners give six different recommendations. the first recommendation, as the holy father has called, is let's work tirelessly to stop the conflict. stop the violence. stop the arming of these different groups that are going there. but the governments should galvanize greater support for a regional strategy to support medium-term integration of humanitarian and development assistance to the refugee host communities.
we need to help the refugees not just survive but thrive and integrate into the local communities. if we don't do that, then they will be on the move. we need to respond to the fluid situation in europe and we need to have bprm be able to be a little more flexible to support agile international nongovernmental organizations. because as we noticed, when i arrived in belgrade, there were many people filling parks in the center city. within the next week, they were bypassing belgrade and going right to shiad. it was fortunate that the international actors that were there could, within a moment's notice, ship their people to the border. and the opportunity in serbia was ideal as the local population was providing assistance as well. we also would support the congress fund the assistance as it has for the last four years at current or beyond current levels.
we do strongly support the senate emergency supplemental initiative to boost that effort and hope the house would agree. we want to redouble our efforts at protection. you brought this up, mr. chairman, particularly education for children. we find that it's crucially important for children to have education because it stops the abuse. you get to see the children. and we have found many of the children require help. we've got innovative ways of working with puppets and others that allow the children to express the horrors they've seen and it's allowed some of their parents to as well. they've all suffered great violence. we would also ask the administration, as senator shaheen has said, to expedite and increase the number of refugees settled in the united states. will not see an opportunity in the future and they need to know their future in the short term. i thank you for hosting this hearing here and happy to answer any questions.
>> thank you very much. now i'm pleased to welcome ambassador o'sullivan. >> mr. chairman, members of the commission, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for taking the initiative to organize this event. thank you for the strong commitment which members of the congress have shown. those here present and others who have traveled to the region. we're grateful for the interest you give to this very difficult issue. mr. chairman, it's already been a long afternoon. i've submitted a written statement. may i just make a few remarks so as not to take up too much time. as everyone has said, this is first and foremost a human tragedy. it is probably the worst humanitarian crisis in a generation. it also is primarily a refugee crisis. this is extremely important in terms of the legal rights of the people involved. as assistant secretary richard said, we in europe don't have the luxury when people come knocking on the door seeking asylum of telling them to go
away and let us think about it. they have to be received immediately. we have commitments which we take very seriously. which means they must be granted immediate possibilities of shelter, of care, and the possibility to make their case. we've been doing this for many, many years. it has worked extremely successfully. europe has been a major destination for asylum seekers. what has changed is the scale and the numbers. which have simply overwhelmed the system. i think to the extent there are deficiency, it is because of that. i would just like to remind people that i think there's been a great deal of compassion and humanity shown all across europe. what the people of italy are doing, they've opened their towns, provided shelter and food. they've shown great generosity and compassion. islands like lisbos has seen 350,000 refugees transit. it's clearly unmanageable for
these countries to face this kund kind of crisis. we acted immediately to try to step the situation in the mediterranean with the forces you mentioned. the search and rescue operation and an anti-smuggler operation designed to break the business model of the smugglers. this has to a certain extent stabilized the situation in the mediterranean. it has immediately created a free flow through the western balkans which has now produced the crisis we're dealing with. here, we have tried to firstly help the member states of the european union who are on the front line by offering to relocate asylum seekers. we're offering assistance to the member states to help with the processing of the applications and also to help with the difficult issue of returning those whose asylum claims are rejected. this is a very difficult issue because it's complicated.
our processing takes on average about four months. at the end of that time, do have to make some choices. people who are granted asylum do have the right to stay. people who are not, we have to find out how they are dealt with and dealt with correctly. it's clear from all of this the system that worked, the country that takes arrival is the country that takes responsibility, is no longer workable faced with the crisis. since this crisis will probably continue, the commission has made it clear we will need to rethink the system and we'll be making proposals both to have a permanent resettlement scheme but also to have a revision of our asylum procedures so in the future we can handle these kind of situations much more nimbly and effectively. the people we're experiencing in europe as refugees are only a small percentage of the total number of displaced people. i want to support everything that has been said about the
need to support the neighboring countries, lebanon, jordan, turkey, and also the other countries in the region who are experiencing difficulty, and particularly the push factor. and i agree with everything assistance secretary richard said about the falloff of funding for the international agencies. the european union has member states. we have stepped up our assistance additionally. the united states is a major donor. i think we are doing our share. i think we do need to insist that others do more in order to try and ensure that the conditions in which people are living in these countries enabled them to have a decent existence and perhaps somewhat to reduce the pressure they may feel to move elsewhere. also, we need a political solution to the sources of this conflict. syria obviously. and end the violence. some political protest.
let the people of syria rebuild their own future. we're fortunate at least in libya which was a major transit problem due to the breakdown of law and order, there has been a positive liberation. my point is to say this is a crisis affecting europe massively but it is truly a global crisis. as the representative of uhcr has said. we're grateful for all the united states has done. but i think we all need to increase our efforts. we would hope the united states will continue its diplomatic engagement with us and all relevant international partners to try and find a political solution to the root causes of the refugee crisis. reaching out to third countries. encouraging them to be more receptive to refugees but also increasing the amount of money to the u.n. agencies, world food program. there's desperate underfunding. we would be grateful if some consideration could be given to
increasing the number of syrian refugees taken in the united states. we would also appreciate if some -- we appreciate it's difficult and the sovereign decision of the united states but some effort on reducing the processing time, which is quite lengthy. pushing the increasing funding through the u.n. system. so chairman that's really all i will say in addition to my written submission. we're very grateful for this opportunity. it's a huge challenge. we really in europe are very committed to facing this challenge. i think we can be proud of much that has been done. perhaps some things could have been done differently or better. but we will continue to face this crisis with the full basis of our humanitarian values, our commitment, to treating refugees fairly, and to providing hopefully assistance where it's needed. but most importantly political solutions that get to the root causes of why people flee their homes. >> you mention increase the number of asylum slots or refugee slots.
with all due respect, what do you think it ought to be? i know it's a tough question -- >> sir, i don't -- any increase would be welcome. we appreciate it. this is a matter ultimately for the united states to decide. clearly, this problem is going to be with us for some time. we're going to have to find ways of offering these 11 million displaced people some possibilities of diverse places to create a future. we hope the united states can play a part in that. >> i'll ask all of these questions to you and answer if you like. with winter fast approaching, obviously the threat of disease, people dying from exposure to cold and bad weather is increased markedly, particularly with so many people in transit. i'm wondering, you know, if there's some early warning surveillance on how we might mitigate that threat. we're always worried about a breakout of the new pandemic. obviously that looms large, i
think, in the affected region. maybe, mr. callahan, you might want to speak to what you're finding and what others are finding and all of you might want to speak to this, in terms of diseases, you know, the morbidity as well as the fatality rates. we know that children are less likely to be getting their immunizations. we know other opportunistic infections will seize upon all this transition and all this chaos and people do get sicker in war torn areas. if you might want to speak to that, would appreciate it. i would ask you also, do christians and those of other religious minorities face other unique challenges perhaps not faced by the sunni or by the shia? we know in some refugee camps, some of the christians are less likely to be housed there. that there are problems sometimes with an integration issue. so i'm wondering if they are left further behind when it
comes to refugee protection and asylum-seeking -- do they have unique problems? the wfp, short for the world food program, shortfall, if that were alleviated quickly and other humanitarian gaps, would that likely lead to stemming the number of people who are uprooting? or has this now become a movement that is going to run its course as people just leave? again, i thought your two mega trends coupled with the trigger i think so well put it, you know, people don't expect this war to end any time soon. they have spent down to the point of impoverishment. now the other cuts that have just made life beyond miserable. if that were reversed. if the humanitarian crisis from that point of view were to be
robustly attacked, what would happen there? you mentioned ambassador o'sullivan about the dublin regulation. aneed to ajudd case whether or not they're asylum eligible. we all know that means the country where they first make their presence are the ones that need to adjudicate whether or not they're asylum eligible. we all know some of the countries have a less capable, less capability in that area. i know our own director of intelligence clapper, our fbi direct, special enjoy for global coalition to counter isil, have expressed concerned about terrorists groups like isis posing as refugees, especially at those european countries where there might be a less capable, you know, effort to weed them out. you did indicate that's being looked at. seems to be if you could elaborate on where that might go.
and finally -- i guess that's enough of that. if you could. >> let me perhaps focus in on the question regarding what would happen if the funding pipeline was replenished and wfp and everybody was able to respond to the needs of the refugees in the countries of asylum. i think that the answer is that people would continue to flee from syria. there would continue to be internal displacement. the attacks of this last days in aleppo are said to have generated 70,000 new people moving. so it wouldn't stem the tide, once again, because they're refugees, they would simply be perhaps less compelled to leave their first countries of asylum to go to europe or elsewhere.
it wouldn't relieve the pressure on the international community to still provide support to the host countries in a bigger and better way, in a more sustained multiyear manner rather than year to year, actually it's quarter to quarter humanitarian assistance, and it would perhaps focus more attention on the legal avenues for people to leave lebanon and jordan through resettlement, through family reunification and other means. which would allow for a more managed predictable approach to arrival in europe as well as the united states. that's the best case scenario. >> before the rest of you answer, if you could, maybe you'd want to touch on this as well, with regards to human trafficking and the exploitation of women, are there assessments being undertaken to look at situations where women are more
vulnerable? i have a whole list of places. i mentioned munich as just one of those where women have been raped and they've been sold into slavery. we all know how the exploiters just have capability to find these women and sell them and reduce them to commodities. i know we all care about it. i know the europe union has done yeoman's work on combating these crimes. but i'm wondering if given all the chaos if enough is being done and your recommendations on that. >> very good. i know for a fact this is a matter of particular interest to you and to our partners and to the states. with specific references, but we can certainly furnish them to the committee. >> to answer your questions
regarding the disease you have mentioned and the weather which is coming. of courses a great concern in serbia. we are trying to assist the refugees as much as possible. and trying to give them accommodation, food and clothes. most of them are coming from areas there is no harsh winter conditions. of course serbia's capacities are limited. that's why we need the assistance from the european union. i'm thankful you have allocated 1.5 million euros for these purposes. actually, we need more. we have established some refugee centers and registration centers on the border with macedonia, with bulgaria and also on hungary and croatia. as far as the decisions of
concern, they are present and they are medical experts who can aid these refugees. although i have to stress that the destination country of most of them is not serbia. they are just in transit. the average stay in serbia is three to four days. that limits actually the possibility there are some diseases. although it's happened where people seek and even some of them died and also women giving birth to children. all of these were taken care of by the medical team. and the other question which you have mentioned regarding the treatment of the various nationals and religions. in serbia, all of them are treated equally.
if they are sunnis or shia or christians, it is no difference. we are treating them with dignity and we are welcoming them and trying to help them. because serbia was also -- serbian people were also in the past subjected to situations similar to this and we really understand their pride and why they leaving their own countries. so if it would be the situation, my opinion is that we have to work with the whole international community. with the lead of the united states. to solve the crisis at the roots. and in that way, the refugees, the number of refugees will be much, much smaller. thank you. >> just to pick up on those two points. winterization, it is something we're working on. getting proper clothing and structures in place. as we see -- and they need to be portable structures because of the points of migration constantly changing.
we're looking at that as well as bathrooms in some of the host countries with the port-o-potties and things like that. we have had medical teams out. there is an increase in respiratory disease, skin diseases. because people haven't been able to bathe in weeks. we're talking about families that have been going for ten weeks at a time. in some of these circumstance, you do have to worry about in the longer term if you get more and more people packed in some of these neumann's land, the issues of other disease his spreading would be more rapid. to jump on the issue of the christians, we haven't noticed as much in the current migration, but certainly when christians have left both syria and iraq, they are not going into camps because, frankly, they don't t t