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Refugees Worldwide and U.S. Foreign Policy: Reciprocal Impacts
Address before the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles on November 19, 1987. Ambassador Moore is U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs. Today I want to discuss why refugee problems are not peripheral but are integral to U.S. foreign policy. I will set out some general principles and cite some specific applications, including some recent firsthand observations in Africa and Asia. I will also review current accomplishments and project future efforts in refugee policy.
The attitude is expressed from time to time that "refugee policy" should be kept immune from "foreign policy" considerations, as if the former were pure and the latter tainted. This is patently incorrect. We can pursue refugee relief effectively only if we acknowledge the relationship--be it one of reinforcement or conflict--between refugee interests and other policy objectives. The task is to assure that there be reconciliation, not separation, so that refugee concerns are not over-ridden by, but interact properly with, other commitments.
The United States has a historical, nonpartisan, priority commitment to humanitarian assistance to refugees for a number of reasons. Americans care about refugees because we are a compassionate people, because we ourselves are a nation of global ties, and because our national interests abroad involve us inextricably in refugees' fate.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and our own count, there are some 12 million refugees throughout the world. The largest single population is the Afghans who have fled into Pakistan and Iran as a result of Soviet occupation. There are still large numbers of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Lao in first-asylum states in Southeast Asia. Throughout the Continent of Africa, conflicts and famine continue to generate massive waves of displaced people. Palestinians who have been in camps throughout the Middle East for 40 years are joined by those fleeing continued fighting in Lebanon. There are refugees in several Central American countries who have fled the conflicts of that region. And those who have risked everything to flee the Eastern bloc are being joined by increasing numbers of compatriots permitted to emigrate legally after long years of waiting.
The United States responds to the needs of refugees in many ways. One is through multilateral assistance to refugees in place. The U.S. Government this year will contribute more than $200 million to refugee protection and relief. We channel this assistance through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Intergovernmental Committee for …