World Economic Forum

US to seek 30% rise in UN funds to help refugees

It will also push to double intake of asylum seekers, says Kerry

DAVOS • The United States will seek an increase in UN humanitarian funding this year at a United Nations summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama in September in response to the global refugee crisis, US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday.

He said the aim of the meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly would be to secure a 30 per cent increase in funding from last year's US$10 billion (S$14.3 billion) to US$13 billion and to at least double the number of refugees who are resettled or admitted to other countries.

"This summit will be the culmination of a sustained, rigorous effort to rally the world community," Mr Kerry said in a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He said it would also seek to increase the number of regular humanitarian donor countries and those admitting refugees by 10 and to get a million refugee children in school and a million refugees legally.

"The private sector, civil society and religious organisations will also be called on to help integrate refugees into host communities socially, academically and through access to employment," Mr Kerry said.

A US State Department statement said it would announce "significant new commitments" over the coming months and would "strongly encourage other nations to do the same".

The UN said last month the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide was likely to have "far surpassed" a record 60 million last year, mainly driven by the Syrian war and other protracted conflicts.

The estimated figure includes 20.2 million refugees fleeing wars and persecution, the most since 1992, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a report.

It said nearly 25 million asylum seekers have requests pending, with Germany, Russia and the US receiving the highest numbers of the nearly one million new claims lodged in the first half of the year.

Mr Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed Europe's refugee crisis on Thursday and agreed to work together in the coming months to help protect and provide for millions of war refugees, the White House said.

Mr Obama promised Dr Merkel to "substantially"support efforts to ease the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, according to a German government spokesman.

The two leaders spoke by telephone and the Chancellor set out the goals of the planned donor conference for Syrian refugees which she will co-host in London on Feb 4, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

"The President promised that the US government would contribute substantially," Mr Seibert said in a statement.

He added that Mr Obama and Dr Merkel also agreed that there could only be a political solution for the Syrian crisis, as well as for the stand-off in Ukraine.

They also discussed ways to further bolster the robust economic relationship between Europe and the US.

REUTERS, XINHUA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'US to seek 30% rise in UN funds to help refugees'. Print Edition | Subscribe