Oxfam, other non-profits urge feds to raise refugee cap

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts refugee organisations urged the United States (US) President Trump administration on Tuesday to raise its proposed cap on refugees, noting that crises have forced millions from their homes and that the US has the resources to respond.

The US Department of State last week proposed accepting just 18,000 refugees in the fiscal year that began on Tuesday — the lowest since the humanitarian programme was created in 1980. Last year, the administration placed the cap at the then-record low of 30,000 refugees. In Barack Obama’s last year as President, he set the annual cap at 110,000 refugees.

Leaders of Oxfam America, the International Institute of New England, Catholic Charities of Boston and other groups also called on state policymakers to bolster agencies serving refugees as they deal with layoffs and closures because of cuts to the federal refugee programmeme.

The curtailment of the national refugee quota comes despite great global upheaval, said Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Eva Millona. Nearly 26 million refugees have had to leave their homelands due to war, political repression, religious persecution and natural disasters in recent years, she said.

“People are suffering, and we need to help,” Millona said, speaking at a forum at Oxfam’s downtown Boston office. “We have the resources”.

The Trump administration is also now requiring state and local governments to approve most refugee resettlements, which activists said on Tuesday could open the door for some states and cities to ban refugees altogether.

The State Department said in a statement resettlement in the US is just one way the administration supports refugees, citing diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts in the Middle East and Latin America to billions of dollars in aid sent overseas for basic needs like food, shelter and healthcare.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s office said it remains committed to supporting refugees despite the White House policies because they’re “vital to Massachusetts’ economy, culture and civic life”.

Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Eva Millona during a roundtable discussion in Boston. PHOTO: AP