November 26, 2022

State Department explains how Blinken will convince Africans that while 100,000 refugees from Ukraine will be welcomed to U.S., Ethiopian survivors from Tigray will not

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken holds a Meet and Greet with U.S. Mission Senegal, in Dakar, Senegal, on November 20, 2021. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken holds a Meet and Greet with U.S. Mission Senegal, in Dakar, Senegal, on November 20, 2021. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/

Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 09:33 am

The United States Department of State has responded to a request by Today News Africa seeking to understand how Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken who is making his first trip to North Africa next week and has called on Africans to stand up for Ukrainians will explain to the continent’s leadership that while 100,000 refugees from Ukraine will be welcomed to the United States, those from Ethiopia who have suffered unimaginable hardship in the past one year will not be given the same favor being extended to white Europeans.

Blinken, a State Department spokesperson said in a brief statement to Today News Africa, will tell African leaders that “the magnitude and speed of the displacement of Ukrainians caused by Russia’s unprovoked aggression has required a swift, significant, and coordinated international response.”

“Our European allies and partners who are on the frontlines of this refugee crisis are leading that response.  The United States is doing its part by surging humanitarian assistance and by opening and expanding pathways to the United States, with a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members here.  In this way, we hope to relieve some of the pressure on the European host countries that are currently shouldering so much of the responsibility for providing safety to the refugees flowing out of Ukraine.    

“The United States assesses protection needs, including cases of particular vulnerability, as a central tenet of refugee admissions to address the urgent need for resettlement across all regions.  Any admissions of Ukrainian nationals through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) in Fiscal Year 2022 will be counted against the number of admissions established in this year’s Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions.  As needed, we may use the unallocated reserve for Ukrainians,” Blinken will convey, the State Department official added.

The White House announced on Thursday that the United States will accept up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine and others fleeing Russia’s invasion that has forcibly displaced more than 3.5 million people. In Ethiopia’s Tigray region where thousands of people have been killed and millions have been forcibly displaced within and outside Ethiopia and hundreds of thousands remain at an increased risk of famine, the United States has not extended the same favor being given to white Europeans.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lamented that people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia were “starving to death” and in need of food more than medicine.

Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Ghebreyesus called for an end to the humanitarian blockade in the region, 500 days since the siege on Tigray began, warning that the situation is so bad that “people are starving to death” and “giving them food is more important than medicine.”

The WHO chief said the Ethiopian government has granted access into the region, but much more is needed. He said only 4 percent of Tigray’s medical needs have been supplied so far.

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“Although Ukraine is rightly the focus of the world’s attention, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the many other crises in which people are suffering,” he said. “Last week, I spoke about the humanitarian disaster in Tigray, and that WHO was still waiting for permission to send an additional 95 metric tonnes of medical supplies. Since then, permission has been granted. If we can deliver these supplies safely, they will help people in desperate need, but much more is needed. So far, only 4% of the needs for health supplies have been delivered to Tigray. That is insignificant.”

The WHO chief added that “the region has been under siege for almost 500 days, with dire shortages of fuel and food. People are starving to death. Actually, giving them food is more important than medicine. We continue to call on Ethiopia and Eritrea to end the blockade.”

U.S. to welcome 100,000 refugees from Ukraine

The White House said that while it expects most Ukrainians to remain in Europe, the United States will welcome 100,000 of them through what it described as “the full range of legal pathways, including the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”

“While we expect many Ukrainians will choose to remain in Europe close to family and their homes in Ukraine, today, the United States is announcing plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s aggression through the full range of legal pathways, including the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” the White House wrote in a fact sheet. “In particular, we are working to expand and develop new programs with a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members in the United States.”

U.S. President Joe Biden salutes before boarding Air Force One to travel to Louisiana to tour the hurricane-affected areas

The White House added that the United States and the European Union are also coordinating closely to ensure that “these efforts, and other forms of humanitarian admission or transfers, are complementary and provide much-needed support to Ukraine’s neighbors.”

The United States, the European Union and other seven nations, also announced a new round of sanctions against more than 400 Russian individuals and entities, including lawmakers and defense companies.

G-7 leaders also warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against using chemical or nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and announced plans to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.

“NATO leaders met today on the one-month anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine to reiterate our strong support for the Ukrainian people, our determination to hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and our commitment to strengthening the NATO Alliance. We had the privilege of hearing directly from President Zelenskyy, and we will continue to support him and his government with significant, and increasing, amounts of security assistance to fight Russian aggression and uphold their right to self-defense,” President Biden wrote in a statement.

“In the past few weeks, the United States has announced $1 billion in new security assistance to Ukraine — anti-aircraft systems, anti-armor weapons, drones, and millions of rounds of ammunition. I welcome the steps by many other Allies to provide defensive support to Ukraine and together, we are committed to identifying additional equipment, including air defense systems, to help Ukraine. 

“We also discussed our work to bolster NATO’s collective defense, particularly on the Eastern flank. Our joint statement today makes clear that NATO is as strong and united as it has ever been. Immediately after Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine, we activated NATO’s defensive plans and the NATO Response Force. The United States has surged thousands of forces and additional capabilities to Europe, and we have welcomed the new deployments made by our Allies. Today’s establishment of four new battle groups in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary is a strong signal that we will collectively defend and protect every inch of NATO territory. Between now and the NATO summit in June, we will develop plans for additional forces and capabilities to strengthen NATO’s defenses. We will adopt an updated Strategic Concept to ensure NATO is ready to meet any challenge in the new and more dangerous security environment.”

Anger over weapons sales to Morocco

Blinken will be making his first official trip to North Africa since he came into office early last year amid raging anger from U.S. Congress over weapons sales to the Kingdom of Morocco.

Early this month, United States Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (D-CA-53) and Congressman Colin Allred (D-TX-32) sent a letter to President Joseph R. Biden Jr., urging the administration not to proceed with any significant or offensive weapons sales with Morocco.

They asserted that “such sales would be highly inappropriate in light of recent escalating violence between Morocco’s security forces and the Polisario, the lack of assurances from Morocco that such weapons will not be used against the Sahrawi people, and the lack of progress towards a political referendum and a final peace agreement with Western Sahara.”

The letter was also signed by nine other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: including Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37), Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-1), Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN-3), Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA-51), Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA-7), Rep. Ted W. Lieu (CA-53), Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI-9), and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1).

The letter was endorsed by seven organizations, including Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Legacy of Equality Leadership Organizing (LELO), WE International, Grace Initiative Global, U.S.-Western Sahara Foundation, Nonviolence International, and Institute of the Black World 21st Century.

Asked whether Secretary Blinken will discuss the weapons sales to Morocco with authorities in Rabat, a State Department spokesperson told Today News Africa, “We do not publicly comment on congressional correspondence or proposed defense sales.”

What Blinken will do in Israel, Morocco and Algeria

The State Department announced on Thursday that Secretary Blinken will travel to Israel, the West Bank, Morocco, and Algeria March 26-30 “to consult with partners on a range of regional and global priorities, including the Russian government’s war on Ukraine, Iran’s destabilizing activities, the Abraham Accords and normalization agreements with Israel, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and preserving the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other topics.”

State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, said Secretary Blinken will start his trip in Israel and the West Bank. “There, he will meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

“The Secretary will underscore the unwavering U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, engage on Israeli-Palestinian issues, and discuss regional and global challenges with his counterparts in the Israeli government,” Price said. “The Secretary will also meet with President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah as well as with representatives of Palestinian civil society.  In these meetings, the Secretary will emphasize the importance of strengthening U.S.-Palestinian relations, and advancing freedom, security and prosperity for the Palestinian people.”

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken departs from Geneva, Switzerland, on January 21, 2022. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Price added, “In Morocco, he will meet with Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and other senior government officials to exchange views on regional issues and bilateral cooperation, as well as advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The Secretary will also meet with exceptional Moroccan alumnae of U.S.-sponsored exchange programs.

“While in Rabat, the Secretary will also meet Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss regional security and international developments.

“The Secretary will then travel to Algiers, Algeria for meetings with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra to discuss regional security and stability, commercial cooperation, advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms, and other areas of mutual concern.  The Secretary will also officially inaugurate the United States as the Country of Honor at the Algiers International Trade Fair, the largest trade show of its kind in Africa. He will meet with U.S. business representatives in Algeria to discuss deepening economic ties and promoting U.S.-Algeria trade and investment.

“During the course of his trip, the Secretary will emphasize to all of the foreign leaders he meets that the United States stands in solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the face of the Kremlin’s aggression.  We will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to impose further costs on Putin and his enablers if Putin does not change course.”

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