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At least 76% of recent asylum-seekers in New York come from countries facing debt distress


New York’s outdated governance of sovereign debt is wrecking economies and destabilizing low- and middle-income countries.

The top 10 countries where most recent asylum-seekers originate pay a staggering $82 billion per year in debt payments, according to a new analysis published today by Oxfam, the global organization fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. Using recent asylum arrival figures from NYC and data from the World Bank and IMF, the media brief, “Refuge from Debt,” highlights how the abuse of New York laws—which govern more than half of all sovereign debt owed to private companies—is contributing to the global debt crisis and creating conditions of instability and insecurity.

According to Oxfam, at least 76% of recent asylum-seekers in New York come from countries that are in debt crisis or at risk of default. Moreover, the top 10 countries where most recent asylum-seekers originate pay over $9 billion annually in interest payments alone to private creditors governed by New York laws. For all low- and middle-income countries that owe to these private creditors, annual interest payments total $46.6 billion.

"Every person deserves the chance to live a life of dignity and security, regardless of where they are born. But New York laws, and the creditors who abuse them, are making that nearly impossible for poor countries across the world,” said Ben Grossman-Cohen, Director of Campaigns at Oxfam America. “New York’s archaic governance of sovereign debt is squeezing low- and middle-income countries and thwarting reasonable efforts to stabilize their economies and communities.”

The brief also emphasizes the financial burden of the debt crisis on individual New Yorkers:

  • New Yorkers send about $11.7 billion each year in voluntary financial support to family members (remittances) in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Remittances are a lifeline to poor countries, accounting for up to half of some low-income countries’ entire gross domestic product. But for every $1 New Yorkers send to their families around the world each year, countries are paying over $4 in interest payments to bondholders governed under New York laws.

“When countries cannot invest in secure environments for their own citizens, they create the conditions that force people to migrate. Many families from around the world have come to the United States – and New York – to seek the safety that everyone deserves. The Sovereign Debt Stability Act (S5542A Rivera/A2970A Fahy) is an important step in combating predatory Wall Street practices and the resulting global debt crisis, which will alleviate many of the conditions causing insecurity in low- and middle-income countries,” said Murad Awawdeh, President and CEO, New York Immigration Coalition.

Global efforts to restructure these debts have been hindered by holdout creditors and “vulture funds” that have blocked good faith negotiations and brought lawsuits to New York courts. Oxfam and partners are calling on the New York State Legislature to pass the Sovereign Debt Stability Act to address New York’s direct role in fueling instability around the world, and the impossible conditions it creates for many.

Oxfam is a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice. We offer lifesaving support in times of crisis and advocate for economic justice, gender equality, and climate action. We demand equal rights and equal treatment so that everyone can thrive, not just survive. The future is equal. Join us at 


Notes to editors:

Download the media brief, “Refuge from Debt,” here.

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