Integrity Legal

16th Jun 2010

The Department of State (DOS) is a multifaceted government agency as it is tasked with handling American foreign relations as well as Consular Affairs. That said, an often overlooked aspect of the American State Department’s mandate is refugee assistance. Unfortunately, throughout the world, economic and political turbulence causes the displacement and migration of local populations. In a recent government press release Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, had this to say about DOS’s role in international population migration:

In my first 11 months on the job, many friends, colleagues and counterparts have asked me about the scope of the humanitarian work of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), which I am honored to lead. For those of you who already know our Bureau well, this note may not be critical reading. For those who don’t, I thought I’d take some time to describe the Bureau and its priorities, and finish by introducing our new Front Office team. Within the Department of State, PRM serves as the principal humanitarian advisor to the Secretary of State, provides key leadership on population and migration issues, and manages two high-impact foreign assistance accounts that totaled over $1.7 billion in FY 2009. Our mandate is to provide protection and solutions to the world’s most vulnerable people: refugees, conflict victims, stateless persons, and vulnerable migrants, and to do so by integrating diplomacy, advocacy and humanitarian assistance programs. In this effort, we seek to help realize the commitments of President Obama and Secretary Clinton to alleviate human suffering and create the conditions for sustainable recovery, and to build a more effective multilateral system for humanitarian response.

It is interesting to note that many of the issues associated with refugee assistance can trace their roots to routine diplomatic issues which is why the Department of State is an ideal mechanism for providing assistance to refugee populations. To quote the aforementioned press release further:

Most of the humanitarian situations to which PRM responds are rooted in political or security challenges. For this reason, our access to foreign heads of government and other key foreign government decision-makers is critical, as it fosters the integration of humanitarian diplomacy within a full range of U.S. government assistance and protection programs, and leverages these programs to achieve critical humanitarian objectives. Over the past many months, I’ve pursued international humanitarian objectives in visits with a range of senior foreign leaders and officials, including with President Fernandez of the Dominican Republic on issues relating to the status of Haitians; the Prime Minister of Jordan and the Vice Foreign Minister of Syria on issues relating to Iraqi and Palestinian refugees; and the President, Defense Minister and Foreign Minister on conditions for internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka.

In this author’s opinion, assisting refugees and displaced individuals is a noble pursuit. Therefore, the efforts of DOS in this regard should be applauded as this type of activity ought to continue as countries around the world strive for greater international harmony.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand or US Embassy Thailand.

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