I am very happy to be here in Kakuma and to join in this commemoration of World Refugee Day. I would like to thank everyone who has come here for this event, including my colleagues from the diplomatic corps. I would like to thank our hosts of this event, including the Department of Refugee Affairs Commissioner Haron Komen, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country Representative Raouf Mazou, and Tegla Loroupe. I am delighted to see you all today to mark this very special occasion.
I would like to thank the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for its global leadership in protecting some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The United States has long been a strong supporter of UNHCR. I would also like to recognize the Government of Kenya for its long history of hosting refugees and providing protection to people fleeing persecution, conflict, and other forms of insecurity.
Today we join the international community in recognizing the over 15 million refugees and the millions more internally displaced people across the globe. We honor the dignity, courage, and determination of those who have fled persecution and violence in their homelands. We join countless others worldwide to recognize and honor the strength, bravery and determination of women, men, and children who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, persecution, and scarcity of food. We also gather to recognize the commitment and generosity of the countries, like Kenya, and the organizations that provide these people protection and assistance during difficult times.
Kenya has long been a generous host to refugees from across the region. In today’s world it is more important than ever to continue to uphold international obligations with respect to refugees. Treating everyone with respect, regardless of nationality, is not only the humane thing to do, but also improves security for all. The threat from extremists poses new challenges in Kenya. Now is a crucial moment to bring the country together and to focus on security. Success against terrorism will require strong efforts on security as well as holding firm to our shared values, including democracy, human rights, rule of law, and economic progress. The United States remains committed to working side by side with Kenya in the fight against terrorism.
We also take seriously the responsibility to be a strong advocate for humanitarian issues broadly and to protect and assist refugees and other vulnerable individuals. It is important that we continue to promote durable solutions, such as eventual voluntary repatriation, third-country resettlement, and local integration of refugees depending upon their circumstances. We must all work to ensure that the rights of refugees in Kenya and everywhere are protected and upheld.
The United States has played a leading role in responding to the needs of refugees around the world, including efforts to assist refugees to return home voluntarily in safety and dignity when conditions permit. Last year the United States contributed more than $1 billion for refugee operations globally, including $103 million (approximately 9 billion Kenyan shillings) to support life-saving assistance and food requirements to refugees in Kenya.
While we work to promote lasting peace and stability, and human rights so that these refugees may one day return to their countries, we know that for some, this may not be possible. For these refugees social, economic, and legal integration in their country of asylum not only provides opportunities for them to begin rebuilding their lives, but also to contribute their knowledge, talents, and skills to their new countries. Americans know the benefits of these valuable contributions firsthand. Since 1975, we have welcomed more than 3 million refugees from all over the world, including more than 280,000 African refugees who have been admitted to the United States for permanent resettlement, and we continue to lead in refugee resettlement. Last year, we welcomed 2,177 African refugees out of Kenya and this year we have already admitted more than 2,500 – the majority have been Somali and Congolese, but have also included Burundian, Congolese, Eritrean, South Sudanese, Sudanese, Rwandan, and Ugandan refugees.
The focus of this year’s World Refugee Day is “one family torn apart by war is too many.” The United States remains dedicated to reuniting family members overseas. To that end, we have been working to increase the number of refugee groups eligible for resettlement and nationalities eligible for family reunification. We are committed to finding durable solutions for refugees and their families, including voluntary repatriation and local integration, or third country resettlement where it is impossible for a person to go back home or remain in the host country. Our goal is to help every refugee rebuild their lives in safety, dignity, and peace.
Thanks to the work of people here today, I believe we have reason to be hopeful. We still have much work to do, and together with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the international community, we are committed to protecting the world’s refugees, mitigating their suffering, and working to help find ways for them to live in dignity and peace.
Thank you for the privilege of being here with you today.