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The warming of relations between the superpowers has meant that many regional conflicts may be on the road to resolution. The progress in Afghanistan and Cambodia offers the possibility that refugees created by those conflicts may have the opportunity to return in safety and in dignity to their homes in the not too distant future. Repatriation programs have been planned for each, and have begun to be implemented for the Afghans.
There have also been major repatriation efforts over the past year in Central America for Salvadorans and Nicaraguans. By March of this year, more than 11,000 Salvadorans had returned home from Honduras. And we are in the midst of the repatriation of thousands of Nicaraguans to their home country following the democratic election in February and the
establishment of the Chamorro government. Nicaraguan refugees from both Honduras and Costa Rica as well as more than 8,000 Nicaraguans previously associated with the resistance in Honduras have returned home. While the pace of the returns is affected by the absorptive capacity of these countries, we are especially gratified that more than 30,000 Central Americans are now back in their home countries.
And in Africa, some 43,000 Namibians have returned home after long years in exile to help launch the world's newest independent state.
Another major political change since last year has been the spread of democracy and freedom of expression in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. While this, too, may lead to large repatriations, especially to East European nations, the rapid change in governments has also unleashed long repressed ethnic tensions in those regions. The fear of ethnic strife, plus a legacy of official persecution, particularly in the Soviet Union, has prompted many Jews, Evangelical Christians, and other religious and ethnic minorities there to seize the opportunity to emigrate. This has presented us with some major challenges in our resettlement program, to which I will refer in a moment.
For the majority of the world's 15 million refugees, however, repatriation is not a viable option. Mr. Chairman, over the past year you and your colleagues in the Congress have paid particular attention to the needs of these refugees. Integration and acceptance by the country of asylum is available only to a limited number of these refugees. resettlement to a third country is available to even fewer.
Many refugees who will not be resettled or repatriated have been in asylum for an extended period of time. They need food, water, shelter, the provision of sanitation facilities, and medical care. They also need international organizations to
monitor their protection.
As refugees wait for political and
social conditions to enable them to return home, the international community must be prepared to provide the resources necessary to sustain them.
A major thrust of Congressional attention to refugee affairs worldwide this year has been the dire financial straits of the international organizations which assist refugees and conflict victims. Severe fiscal crises have resulted from a rapid growth in the number of refugees, with a steady but not concomitant increase in international donor contributions. This situation reached a critical point in 1989 and mandated severe cutbacks in the program levels of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). A consensus has been reached, however, on the UNHCR budget for 1990, and we expect that budget to be fully funded. While the ICRC has cut its original program projections by one-third, it maintains a resilient will to respond when needed in a crisis, as demonstrated by the situation in the Persian Gulf.
Smaller but serious financial difficulties have threatened
responses to these latter two organizations from both the regular Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) appropriation and the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) fund have been instrumental in ameliorating their fiscal crises.
In each of these cases, the United States has vigorously pressed other donors to carry their share of these needs. demands on scarce resources, coupled with budgetary constraints in all donor nations, will continue to require careful planning and the setting of priorities by both international organizations and the governments which support their
activities. We shall continue to build on the close working relationships we have established with other donors and each of the international organizations that work with refugees and conflict victims. In Fiscal Year 1991, the President's budget request includes a greatly needed increase in regional refugee assistance of some $46 million as well as a $25 million replenishment of the ERMA fund, which will help all of these refugee organizations.
In short, the refugee world is an extremely dynamic one, with a continuous series of new challenges. We cannot always
from the total amount of funds we provide annually, but as well from the numbers of refugees we resettle. We demonstrate leadership in the policy and program proposals we make to the refugee community, to refugee-hosting governments, and to other donor and resettlement nations. No other nation monitors world situations with the expertise and steadfastness that we bring to refugee and conflict victim issues.
I would like now to turn to four regional situations which are currently receiving priority attention.
II. Regional Developments
A. Soviet Refugee Admissions
Mr. Chairman, rarely does the State Department have an opportunity to announce a plan of action to resolve a major problem and return only twelve months later able to report a resounding success. I am proud to say that this is the case with regard to Soviet refugees.
For many years, the United States and other nations have advocated greater freedom of emigration for Soviet citizens. We have devoted considerable effort and resources to support the resettlement of persecuted religious and ethnic minorities