(Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj)
World Relief and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are commemorating World Refugee Day on Wednesday to call attention to the plight of refugees around the world.
"This is a day when the world needs to stop, reflect on our fellow human beings and what they have been through, and commit to learning more about them and extend a hand to just one," Dan Kosten, senior vice president of U.S. Programs at World Relief, told The Christian Post Tuesday.
"It is a day to give honor to the strength, courage, and living hope exemplified by refugees both here in this country and around the world."
World Relief, which was founded by the National Association of Evangelicals, will commemorate the occasion by co-sponsoring an event in Washington, D.C. called, "A Celebration of Representative Payne's Legacy." Congressman Donald Payne (D-N.J.), who passed away this March, was an advocate for refugees while serving in Congress.
The United Nations established June 20 as World Refugee Day to honor those who flee their homelands under threat of violence or persecution. Currently, 15.2 million refugees worldwide have fled their country. In 2011 alone, 800,000 were added to their number – a record for this century, according to Kevin Appleby, director of the USCCB office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs.
Anastasia Brown, director of USCCB Resettlement Services, Migration and Refugee Services, noted there are currently 800,000 refugees in need of resettlement. The United States takes in more refugees than any other nation, Brown said at the USCCB press event Tuesday, but resettlements still fall short of the needs.
There is currently a cap, set by the president, of 80,000 refugees per year that can be resettled in the United States. But resettlements have fallen short of that due to complications with security clearances.
Refugees are required to undergo up to five different security clearances, Brown explained. These clearances are with different agencies and have different expiration dates. Sometimes refugees may have one security clearance expire before they have had time to finish the other required clearances.
From 2010 to 2011, when new security clearances were put into place, the number of refugees entering the United States dropped from 73,000 to 56,000, even though the cap remained at 80,000. There is not a lack of people in the process, Brown said, the problem is getting them through the process.
Brown wants strong security measures in place, but believes the process should be streamlined. She would like to see a coordinator of refugee programs within the White House to help the various agencies work together on the process, and to combine all the different security clearances into one.
Actress Angelina Jolie is special envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. She narrates a public service announcement for World Refugee Day here.