Catholic Relief official calls for stronger response to refugee crisis

Baltimore-based humanitarian group says U.S. should spend $1B on refugee crisis

An official with Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services told lawmakers Tuesday that the U.S. should increase its investment in humanitarian assistance for refugees fleeing violence in Syria.

Sean Callahan, the chief operating officer of the humanitarian group, told the Helsinki Commission that he supports a bipartisan Senate proposal that would provide $1 billion in emergency funding to address the refugee crisis in Europe.

"It is heart-breaking to imagine walking in their shoes, to imagine one's own life in such chaos," Callahan told the panel, known formally as the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. "As global leaders in international humanitarian and refugee response, the U.S. and Europe must find new and creative ways to help to alleviate this suffering and protect the vulnerable."

Callahan also called on the Obama administration to "significantly increase" the number of refugees settled in the United States. The administration has promised to take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year. Some lawmakers have said the United States should resettle as many as 65,000 people.

Catholic Relief Services and its partners have assisted nearly 800,000 people in the crisis and have spent over $110 million in the last three years, Callahan said.

Callahan pointed to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute suggesting an adequate response will cost $20 billion in the region and around $30 billion per year in Europe.

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