Refugee Needs Exceed Administration's 2007 Budget Request

Posted on Tue, Feb 07, 2006 at 11:46 am

Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) - the nation’s leading coalition of refugee resettlement, human rights, and humanitarian organizations - commends the White House for making refugee assistance a priority in the President’s fiscal year 2007 (FY07) budget proposal and urges Congress to build on the President’s budget submission by providing additional urgently needed resources to assist the world’s most vulnerable populations.

The President’s proposed increase for the Department of State’s Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account comes as humanitarian assistance and protection needs around the world are increasing and when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is being called upon to strengthen its protection mandate. It also comes, unfortunately, in the wake of significant and debilitating cuts in the MRA account enacted by Congress for the current fiscal year. The President’s request would increase resources for U.S. refugee resettlement but would decrease assistance to refugees overseas. We strongly urge Congress to restore the cuts made in fiscal year 2006, and to improve upon the President’s fiscal year 2007 budget request by appropriating $1.2 billion for the MRA account in fiscal year 2007.

The President’s budget submission also proposes a slight increase in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), requesting $651 million for ORR in fiscal year 2007. While we appreciate the President’s request for additional funding for ORR, it notes that this important agency’s needs far outstrip the request. We urge Congress to appropriate a minimum of $798 million for ORR in fiscal year 2007.

We commend the President's budget for recognizing the need to extend eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for elderly and disabled refugees. Under current law, refugees who are unable to naturalize within seven years of arrival in the United States lose access to this life-sustaining cash assistance program causing severe hardship for the most vulnerable.

Additional funds will be needed above the President’s request for both the MRA and ORR accounts if the United States is to maintain its historic leadership in international refugee protection. Richard Parkins, Chair of the Refugee Council USA stated, “the world’s refugee crisis persists, with nearly 11 million refugees - 80 percent of whom are women and children - in need of durable solutions, and often living without sufficient food, shelter, medical care and other vital assistance. We pledge to work with the Administration and Congress in the coming months to ensure that additional funds are made available to offer protection, assistance, and a new life of freedom to refugees, both overseas and in the U.S.”

The Refugee Council USA is pleased that the Administration has bolstered its commitment to refugee protection, assistance, and resettlement by proposing increased funding for fiscal year 2007. We urge Congress to provide additional resources for these vital programs.