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Refuge from Debt

How the global debt crisis fuels forced migration to New York

The top 10 countries where recent asylum-seekers to New York City originate pay a staggering $82 billion a year in public debt and interest payments to foreign creditors, part of a historic global debt crisis that is shaking economic stability. At least 76% of recent asylum-seekers in New York come from countries that are in debt crisis or are at risk of default. As New York state works to deliver humanitarian care to an increased number of asylum-seekers in need of temporary housing, food, and other services, it must address its own role in fueling the global debt crisis that has destabilized poor countries and pushed people to flee their homes to seek refuge elsewhere.

Working New Yorkers are already enduring hardship and economic strain as they voluntarily send an estimated $11.7 billion each year in financial support to family members in low- and middle-income countries. These remittances are a huge source of economic activity in many poor countries facing debt, and a lifeline for their budgets. But the impact of that financial support is dwarfed by the amount of money those same countries must send back to creditors governed by New York laws each year. For every $1 New Yorkers send to their families around the world each year, countries are paying over $4 in interest payments alone to bondholders governed under New York laws.

New York lawmakers have a golden opportunity to help address one of the root causes of forced migration: debt. Proposed legislation to reform New York’s governance of sovereign debt markets can help relieve the financial and political pressures on New York communities as they support the humanitarian needs of recent asylum-seekers. These long overdue reforms can protect New York taxpayers’ interests, help stabilize the debt market, and improve financial security in the home countries of asylum-seekers.



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