November 26, 2022

White House pressed on why it’s granting asylum to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine but not also from Ethiopia’s Tigray region

White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield delivers remarks during the daily White House Press Briefing on March 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo: Simon Ateba/TODAY NEWS AFRICA
White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield delivers remarks during the daily White House Press Briefing on March 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo: Simon Ateba/TODAY NEWS AFRICA

The White House was asked on Tuesday to explain why it is not giving Ethiopian refugees who have been fleeing violence for more than a year the same opportunities as Ukrainian refugees who are being forcibly displaced following the Russian invasion.

Kate Bedingfield discusses Chicago schools returning to virtual learning due to COVID-19 surges during a daily press briefing with President Joe Biden, Wednesday, January 5, 2022, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba asked White House Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield during a White House press briefing in Washington D.C. to explain the rationale behind granting asylum to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees due to Russia’s invasion but not Ethiopian refugees from Tigray who have faced brutality for more than a year.

“Obviously, you know, as we are focused on working to bring — to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees here, that does not — you know, that does not eliminate work that’s being done in other areas.  I don’t have any specifics to announce from this podium at this time on any plans there,” Bedingfield said.  

The Ethiopian crisis, which was triggered when a conflict between Ethiopian government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front exploded on November 4, 2020, has lasted for more than a year, killed thousands of people and displaced millions others.

The United Nations, the United States, the European Union, the African Union and other local and international organizations have also warned that hundreds of thousands of people there were at risk of an increased risk of famine caused by food insecurity.

At a United Nations Security Council Meeting on the Humanitarian Impact of Russia’s War Against Ukraine on Tuesday, United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, warned about food insecurity in Ethiopia and other African nations.

“The world, as we have heard, was already facing a food security crisis well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis pushed millions of families into poverty. Countries around the world are grappling with drought and other disasters made worse by climate change,” she said. “As we heard from Executive Director Beasley, the World Food Program is already feeding 138 million people in more than 80 countries – from Ethiopia to Afghanistan, South Sudan to Yemen, Nigeria to Syria. But now, Putin’s war is driving up the costs of providing food assistance. And the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, estimates that as many as 13 million more people worldwide may be pushed into food insecurity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Calls have been growing in the United States to accommodate more Ukrainians. For instance, on March 24, 2022, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) joined a bipartisan group of 61 Members of Congress in a letter to President Biden urging him to build on the humanitarian efforts already underway to help Ukrainians by allowing for the expedited resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in the United States.

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Among other recommendations, the Members urge the Administration to raise the cap on refugees allowed into the United States for Fiscal Year 2022 if it is necessary to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, ensure that Ukrainians are eligible for priority status, and reduce wait times on student visas.

The letter was led by Schiff (CA-28) and Representatives David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Bradley S. Schneider (IL-10).

In their letter, the Members write to President Biden, “We applaud your decision to grant Temporary Protected Status to Ukrainians currently in the United States, but there remain millions of refugees who are stranded after fleeing Ukraine who we must not ignore or abandon. We ask your administration to take several necessary steps to ensure the safety of the Ukrainian people and a robust resettlement program for Ukrainian refugees within the United States.”

White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield delivers remarks during the daily White House Press Briefing on March 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo: Simon Ateba/TODAY NEWS AFRICA

 There have also been many calls for the Biden administration to grant TPS to Ethiopians and Cameroonians in the United States and welcome more Ethiopian refugees into the country as the war in Tigray lingers. But those calls have remained unheeded.

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