What is the Bureau's role in the Department of State?

The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) is one of the State Department's "functional," as opposed to "geographic" bureaus. This indicates a Bureau that focuses on a particular issue wherever it arises around the world. As described in our mission statement, our focus is refugees, other migrants, and conflict victims. Our goal is to protect these people, who are often living in quite dangerous conditions.

The Bureau's mission statement:

The mission of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) is to provide protection, ease suffering, and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world on behalf of the American people by providing life-sustaining assistance, working through multilateral systems to build global partnerships, promoting best practices in humanitarian response, and ensuring that humanitarian principles are thoroughly integrated into U.S. foreign and national security policy.

What does the Bureau do internationally?

The Bureau works with the international community to develop humane and what are termed "durable" solutions to their displacement. The three durable solutions, are:

  • Repatriation - going home when they are no longer at risk of persecution
  • Local Integration - settling permanently in the country to which they have fled
  • Resettlement - settling permanently in a third country

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), fewer than 1% of refugees worldwide are ever resettled. However, although resettlement often is the durable solution of "last resort," it remains a vital tool for providing international protection and for meeting the special needs of individual refugees who are unable to return home.

Are internally displaced persons (IDPs) part of the Bureau's portfolio?

Internally displaced persons are people who have been displaced from their homes but who have not crossed an internationally recognized border. The Bureau supports the work of UNHCR and ICRC when these organizations respond to the needs of internally displaced persons.

Numerous other organizations, such as UNICEF, the World Food Program, and others also provide assistance to IDPs that complement the activities of UNHCR and ICRC. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds the work of these other international organizations as well as non-governmental organizations to respond to IDP needs as well.

Who does the work?

The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) has approximately 130 civil service and foreign service staff. On the foreign aid side, we are divided into geographic offices. Our program to resettle refugees in the United States is handled by our Admissions Office. We also have a policy office that monitors and evaluates the relief work conducted by the organizations we fund.

How does the Bureau deliver assistance to refugees?

The Bureau does not operate refugee camps, or otherwise give aid directly to refugees. Instead, in the interests of effectiveness and efficiency, we work with the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations, as well as with non-governmental organizations, that operate these programs. The Bureau manages the contributions to these organizations, and monitors the programs we fund: we make sure they are working properly and ascertain that they are in line with U.S. government policies.

For instance, take the refugee relief set-up on the border between Thailand and Burma. Many of the camps were built with assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Burmese refugees receive health services, in part, from a private American charity, International Medical Corps. In Bangkok, the refugee resettlement center, called an "overseas processing entity," handles cases of Burmese referred for resettlement, and is managed by another U.S.-based group, the International Rescue Committee. All these groups receive funding from the Bureau.



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