The Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Anne Richards spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about the Syrian conference that was held in London on Thursday.
Richards confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the United States has pledged a total sum of $890 million dollars to help fund the Syrian refugee crisis. She said: “$600 million is our traditional humanitarian assistance which will go to the United Nations and non-governmental organisations working in and out of Syria and neighbouring countries. The remaining $290 million dollars from the US agency of international development will be allocated to help foster education for the Syrian children and local children in Jordan and Lebanon”.
Richards spoke about the ways in which the funds that are distributed are monitored, saying: “we are required by the congress to ensure that our funding is not wasted or diverted to any bad purposes”. She added: “so monitoring is actually a really important piece of our foreign aid programme and this actually makes it harder to get the money out to the people who need it”.
Speaking about supporting the Syria conference that was held in London yesterday, Richards said: “the conference exceeded my expectations because it has raised more money than in previous conferences”, adding that “it was successful in adding several other issues that had not been discussed in previous conferences. During the first three conferences the focus was on getting urgent aid out to people in need”. She continued by saying that “there was more of a discussion about education, the right to work and also about what more we can do for those countries that are hosting the refugees”.
Education for the Syrian children was at the top agenda of the conference, and Richards stressed that “the push for the importance of children to have an education in the international community started last September during the UN general assembly meetings”. She added that “there were many leading figures who came together to say that we must do a lot more to prevent a loss of a generation of Syrian children. I met today with the head of UNICEF Tony Lake, and he appreciates what the United States is doing to try to bring attention to this problem”. Richards stressed that the United States “would like to see more private and public sector support to help the Syrian children inside and out of Syria”.
On the issue of increasing the number of refugees, Richards said: “we are bringing more refugees in to the United States, and president Obama has increased the numbers from 70,000 to 85,000 this year. Within that number he said we should bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees. We are looking to see how we can increase that number in the next coming months and years”.
On the issue of integration and reminding American citizens that immigrants are innocent victims fleeing from terrorism, Richards said: “We try to remind Americans that most of them are descendants of refugee immigrants and we also point out that we have brought in 3 million immigrants successfully since the Vietnam era”. She added “We try to identify and to answer questions about who these refugees are, to ensure that people see that they are families who are worried about their children’s futures and want to get to safety”.
Richards confirmed “I think that journalists who are also able to profile the background of these refugees are really doing a service to show the American people that they are not terrorists, that they are victims of terrorism. My heart goes out to the refugees who are trying to find a place in this world, a place where they can thrive. This is why we support children going to school and people having the legal right to work”.
Richards said that the United States identifies the problem as being “the scale of the movement of the crisis. We see that there are so many refugees in a small country like Lebanon, a million refugees making it to Germany”. She continued by saying “I wish the world community came together even more to help people in the places they fled from so they don’t feel that they have to make the choice of undergoing a dangerous journey or staying put in a difficult situation”.