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 CNS Story:

REFUGEE DAY Jun-21-2012 (660 words) With photos. xxxn

Church people in the US call for more help for millions of refugees

By Maria Pia Negro
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In observance of World Refugee Day June 20, Catholic leaders noted that not much has changed in the plight of more than 15 million refugees in the world today.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Ark., spoke of the need for the global community to "welcome the stranger" and to aid the millions of refugees who are forced to escape violence and other kinds of persecution in their homeland.

Anastasia Brown, director of resettlement services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, said that since 800,000 new people became refugees last year, the 75,000 refugees that the United States has committed to receive every year continues to be not enough. Brown added that recent government-instituted security clearances reduced the numbers of refugees coming to the U.S.

"Last year we received 56,000. We will have potentially only 54,000 this year," Brown said.

Bishop Taylor and Brown were among the Catholic officials participating in a June 18 telephone news conference in anticipation of World Refugee Day.

Worldwide, more people being forced to flee to other countries in 2011 than at any time since 2000, according to a June 18 report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which put the total at 15.2 million refugees.

The increase in the number of refugees reflects recent crises in Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria, the report said.

Brown said the security clearance process could be streamlined to reduce the wait of those refugees who have been approved to come but are waiting to complete new clearances.

"All refugees go through at least three security clearances and medical clearances at different times of the process, conducted by different entities," she said.

Some people who clear all the processes "can never come here because other parts of their clearances have expired," Brown said.

This affects people identified to be in particular need to be resettled, such as Iraqi refugees in Syria, she said.

"Often refugees families are told they would be resettled and then they received a letter that they won't be resettled," said Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy and public affairs for MRS. "There is a need for this to be fixed."

Bishop Taylor, who planned to go to Jordan soon to see Syrian refugees who fled civil unrest, urged the U.S. government to continue to help refugees.

In recent years, the U.S. has admitted more refugees than any other country, accepting between 50,000 and 75,000 per year, the USCCB noted. The top three populations of refugees resettling here in recent years have been Bhutanese, Burmese and Iraqi.

During the teleconference, the Catholic leaders also pointed at the challenges confronting refugees in the United States. Many refugees come after suffering great losses and the goal of resettlement organizations such as MRS is to help them become self-sufficient as soon as possible.

"Integration is an end goal for refugees," said Darko Mihaylovich, director of resettlement in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.

Placing refugees in jobs during the recession was difficult, particularly in 2009, Mihaylovich said. Last year it took an average of 97 days for refugees to find jobs in Louisville, which is closer to pre-recession levels, he added.

Mihaylovich, himself a refugee from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, works with refugees with professional degrees and those who need vocational training. His office, like others affiliated with MRS and Catholic Charities, rely on federal funding and donations to provide shelter and cover the refugees' basic needs until they find jobs.

In a statement commemorating World Refugee Day, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, offered prayers for refugees and encouraged solidarity by reminding people that the Holy Family had to "flee into Egypt from the terror of Herod."

"In the face of the refugee, we see the face of Christ. As we celebrate World Refugee Day, let us continue to welcome the refugee into our hearts and homes," Archbishop Gomez said.


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
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