Published: Fri, June 21, 2013
(Reuters) - US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday (early Friday in the Philippines) marked the 13th annual World Refugee Day by announcing a large increase in the US contribution to the United Nation refugee relief program, saying the plight of the world's displaced people is vital to US strategic interests.
The US contribution to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) will nearly double to $890 million for 2013, making it the largest contribution from any one country, Kerry said.
"When the stakes are high, you need to up your game and I'm proud to say that the United States is trying to do that," he told an audience at the State Department on Thursday, which included activists and organizations that address the world's refugee problems.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres attended Secretary Kerry's event via satellite feed and said that on average another new person becomes a refugee every four seconds.
"Every time you blink, there is one new person, one more person, forced to flee. And this gives a very clear idea of how dramatic the displacement problem is," Guterres said.
A new report released by the UNHCR warns that there are now 45.2 million people who are refugees or internally displaced, an 18-year high. The report cited the crisis in Syria as the reason behind the increase.
Some 4.25 million Syrians have become displaced internally as a result of the two-year long civil war, the report said, and at least 1.5 million more Syrians have fled the crisis as refugees.
Many of those Syrians, Kerry said, are turning to Jordan for refuge, where they create additional pressures for the communities that absorb them.