Accepting Refugees Protects U.S., Official Says

Peter Smith, Louisville Courier-Journal, December 6, 2007

The United States resettles far more refugees than any nation in the world, not just out of charity but also out of national security concerns, a top State Department official said in Louisville yesterday.

“We do it because it’s the right thing to do, but we also do it because it is in our national interest,” Assistant Secretary of State Ellen R. Sauerbrey said, telling of how many refugees languish for years in crude camps.

“When you have people in these hopeless situations, this is where terrorism breeds, this is where failed states come from,” she said.

Sauerbrey spoke to a lunchtime gathering of the World Affairs Council of Kentucky/Southern Indiana at the Marriott Louisville Downtown.

The United States resettled about 50,000 refugees from 67 countries in the past year, and 708 of them have come to Louisville, Sauerbrey said.

The country could receive 70,000 or more in the coming year, she said.

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She predicted a continued influx of refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma), including members of the Karen refugee group, of whom more than 200 already have settled in Louisville.

Refugees from the African nations of Burundi and Somalia and from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan also are expected in the coming year, both nationally and in Louisville, Sauerbrey said.

She oversees the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration—an agency that deals with those fleeing their countries because of a “well-founded fear of persecution.”

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But when it appears impossible for refugees to return home, they can be resettled to new countries, she said. The United States is by far the leader in such efforts, with Australia and Canada the closest in resettling about 5,000 people each last year.

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