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World

Blinken announces aid for migrants, refugees

Agence France-Presse
Blinken announces aid for migrants, refugees
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the 52nd General Assembly of the OAS in Lima on October 6, 2022.
AFP / Cris Bouroncle / Pool

LIMA, Peru — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday announced new humanitarian aid to migrants and refugees, as he attended a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Peru.

Blinken is on a regional tour that has taken him to Colombia, Chile and now Lima, where he attended the annual general assembly meeting of the OAS, which closes Friday.

Ahead of ministerial talks on the perplexing question of migration in the Americas, Blinken announced "new humanitarian and bilateral and regional assistance" to the tune of $240 million.

This would go towards addressing the needs of refugees and migrants "throughout our hemisphere," he told reporters, including health services, shelter, education and legal assistance, as well as combating people trafficking.

"We have more people on the move around the world, displaced from their homes, than at any time in recorded history -- more than 100 million," said Blinken. 

"And our own hemisphere is experiencing that in deep, profound and new ways."

Migration has been a headache for the administration of US President Joe Biden, with Republican opponents frequently claiming that he has left the southern US border unprotected against unauthorized crossings.

Peru, which has an estimated 1.2 million Venezuelans within its borders, is playing host to the 52nd session of the general assembly of the OAS, made up of North and South American countries.

'Sham referenda'

The meeting opened Wednesday with a video address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who urged the body to support his country's plight in the face of Russia's military invasion.

On Thursday, at the initiative of Guatemala with United States backing, 24 OAS countries adopted a statement of support for Ukraine.

But three countries, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, did not add their voices to the Russian censure.

"It's crucial that we stay united by condemning Russia's sham referenda as a violation of international law, and unequivocally rejecting any attempts to illegally annex Ukrainian territory," Blinken told the plenary meeting.

"We hope that countries will similarly support the UN General Assembly resolution" on Russian declared annexation of partly-occupied regions of Ukraine.

Moscow last week vetoed a condemnation by the UN Security Council.

In March, the OAS suspended Russia's status as a permanent observer.

The OAS assembly will on Friday discuss resolutions on human rights concerns in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and on the troubling humanitarian situation in Haiti.

Blinken's visit has taken him to three countries that have recently elected leaders on the left of the political spectrum, which in Latin America has traditionally been strongly anti-United States.

In June, several Latin American leaders were angered by Washington's decision not to invite Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela -- all under US sanctions -- to a Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles.

Blinken was due to meet human rights defenders from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba in Lima later Thursday.

Outside the assembly meeting, several thousand supporters of the religious right held protests denouncing what they described as the OAS's "atheist" nature and denouncing its "progressive agenda." 

ANTHONY BLINKEN

UNITED STATES

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