Statement by the President Obama on World Refugee Day

Office of the Press Secretary
June 20, 2016

Today, on World Refugee Day, we recognize the challenges and hardships that refugees face, honor their courage and resilience in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and celebrate their many valuable contributions to our Nation.

This year’s commemoration comes as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more people are displaced by rising violence, insecurity, and persecution than at any time on record.  More than 65 million people around the world – more than the population of France, or California and Texas combined – have been driven from their homes.  More than half are children.  The scale of this human suffering is almost unimaginable; the need for the world to respond is beyond question.

Every day, members of the international community, humanitarian organizations, civil society, and individual citizens work to assist these vulnerable populations.  For our part, the United States provides more humanitarian assistance to refugees than any other nation and maintains the world’s largest refugee resettlement program.  We support programs that provide food, water, shelter, and medical care to refugees, and fight for their rights to safety, dignity and long-term livelihood opportunities.

But responding to today’s unprecedented challenge requires all of us to do more.  In September, when world leaders meet for the UN General Assembly, I will convene a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees.  In advance of that Summit, the United States is urging other governments to contribute more funding for humanitarian aid operations, to grant more refugees the chance to work and attend school, and to provide more resettlement opportunities for refugees who cannot safely go home or remain where they are.  We are urging our non-governmental partners, including the private sector, to do more as well.

Even as our aid supports refugees thousands of miles from here, each day, countless Americans do their part to welcome and support refugees as they start life anew in the United States.  The millions of refugees who have resettled here through the years have brought similar dreams of a better tomorrow.  Each has enriched the diverse mosaic that is America.  Their lives and their many accomplishments stand as a clear rebuke to the bigotry and brutality they fled, and serve as a powerful example of the human will to endure, hope, and achieve.

Today, we commemorate the spirit and strength of refugees worldwide and the dedication of those who help them on and after their journeys.  Protecting and assisting refugees is a part of our history as a Nation, and we will continue to alleviate the suffering of refugees abroad, and to welcome them here at home, because doing so reflects our American values and our noblest traditions as a Nation, enriches our society, and strengthens our collective security.

Secretary Kerry also addressed World Refugee Day noting, “We honor refugees’ resilience and courage.”  To see the whole speech click here.