Juba – On June 20, the United States joins our partners in South Sudan, the region, and across the world to commemorate World Refugee Day. The primary purpose of this commemorative day is to draw attention to the plight of refugees forced to flee from their homes because of violence, persecution, and insecurity. It is also an opportunity to honor those who provide them with life-saving protection and assistance despite harassment and threats. In 2017, the number of displaced persons reached more than 60 million, the highest it has been since World War II. On World Refugee Day, we honor the dignity, value, and potential of every one of these lives.
The people of South Sudan know firsthand the pain, challenges, and resilience of refugee life. The United States commends South Sudan for hosting nearly 270,000 refugees from neighboring countries, while deeply regretting the brutal and senseless conflict now underway in South Sudan, which has displaced nearly four million South Sudanese, or more than one-third of the population, from their homes.
Worldwide, U.S. humanitarian assistance totaled more than $7 billion in 2016, including funding from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Since the start of the civil conflict in South Sudan in December 2013, the United States has provided more than $2.4 billion to support the humanitarian response for South Sudan—now the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world—including support to South Sudanese refugees sheltering in neighboring countries Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. With U.S. support, including more than $62.5 million in additional funding announced on May 24 from PRM to help South Sudanese refugees, we are providing food, water, shelter, and medical care to refugees, while advocating for their right to safety, dignity and long-term livelihood opportunities. This substantial and generous support reflects the commitment of the American people to assisting the most vulnerable. But South Sudanese leaders must recognize that the level of support provided by the United States and other partners is not sustainable. The U.S. government reiterates the demand to the warring parties—a demand echoed by the people of South Sudan, as well as South Sudan’s regional and international partners—that they must end this conflict and return to the path of peace so that displaced people can return to their homes and begin rebuilding their shattered lives.
The United States was founded by refugees, and immigrants have played a singular role in the development of America. Beginning in the 1980s, we welcomed more than 30,000 refugees from the then Southern Sudan who were fleeing marginalization, discrimination and oppression. These immigrants now anchor a vibrant diaspora community of more than 100,000. Americans are proud of their support for U.S. humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced people worldwide, but regret the conditions that require such assistance. We remain committed to helping the people of South Sudan to become “united in peace” and to obtain the “justice, liberty and prosperity” called for in country’s national anthem, ideals which are frustrated by the ongoing conflict.
Ambassador Molly Phee