August 16, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi Before Their Meeting

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Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Thomas Jefferson Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning, everyone.  I am very pleased for this opportunity to meet with the High Commissioner for Refugees at the UN Filippo Grandi.  It’s safe to say that this is a time of extraordinary challenge for everything that you’re doing and everything that we’re so indebted to you and your team for doing.

I believe, as you said, the number of displaced people around the world now is somewhere in the vicinity of 95 million people.  And within that huge number of refugees, I think if you added up all of the refugees and tried to put them in one country, it would be larger than the population of Spain, South Korea, any number of countries.  This is a challenge that has been with us for well over the past decade.  When I was last in government, we were dealing with particularly acute challenges – of course, Syria, Iraq, but also in many other parts of the world from Africa to Southeast Asia to our own hemisphere.

We’ve only seen that challenge increase, and of course, Ukraine has now added to the mix with Russian aggression displacing within Ukraine or outside of Ukraine two thirds of the children in that country, as well as of, course, many, many adults.

So we are simply grateful for the work that you’re doing every single day to try to meet the needs of those who have been forced in one way or another from their homes.

The partnership that we have between the United States and UNHCR, working together to find ways to resettle people, to care for them, and I think as well the work that we need to do together not only to resettle, ultimately end conflicts so that people can go home, but also to find more effective ways in helping those communities support the refugees that are with them.

So in all of these ways, there is a lot of work to be done, a lot of work we’re doing every single day between us.  But mostly this is an opportunity as well just to say thank you, because what you’re doing is an invaluable service to humanity at a time when it’s more needed than ever.  So welcome.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, how will the U.S. expedite getting Ukrainians —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Please.

MR GRANDI:  Bear with me, just a few words also on my side to thank Secretary Blinken and his colleagues for welcoming us here at the State Department.  And I just want – he said it all, really.  I just want to add, this figure that he mentioned, 95 million – maybe 96 by the way, who knows – has gone up by 12 million in less than two months with the crisis in Ukraine, with the Russian offensive against Ukraine and the flight of so many people.  So that will be a priority for us to discuss and already I’ve been here a couple of days in Washington and had very good discussions on how to respond to this crisis both in neighboring countries and inside Ukraine.

But then, of course, an important message that I’m sure everybody will agree here around the table is that that crisis should not make us forget everything else.  We’ve been dealing intensely together with the Afghanistan situation for the past few months, but there are many, unfortunately many, crises in Africa, in the Western Hemisphere, that involve a huge displacement component, and therefore I look forward to continuing our cooperation.

The United States is UNHCR’s by far largest donor.  It is the largest resettlement country and with our partnership with the United States in these areas has been extremely strong.  And I want to take this opportunity to thank this administration.  Without the United States, we could not be as effective as you kindly recognized us to be, and we look forward to even strengthening even further this partnership, which is globally and domestically extremely important.  So thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.

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