Asylum News 52
Child Soldiers and Material Support On April 24, Anwen Hughes, Senior Counsel in the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First, testified about the impact of the sweeping “material support” bar on child soldiers at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. Ms. Hughes explained: “We are currently experiencing a crisis in the U.S. asylum and refugee resettlement system, in which refugees who were victims of serious human rights abuses are being excluded from protection under immigration provisions intended to bar those who victimized them. Child soldiers in need of refugee protection represent a subset of those affected by this insanity.” Other witnesses included Ishmael Beah, author and former child soldier, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, and Joseph Mettimano, director of public policy and advocacy at World Vision. Read more. Click here for the complete testimony. Material Support: Iraqi Refugees and Senator Kyl An Op-ed appearing in the April 18 edition of the New York Times addressed the impact of the sweeping “material support” bar on Iraqi refugees. Kirk Johnson, formerly of the United States Agency for International Development, wrote, “Many of [the refugees from Iraq] will most likely be denied refuge in the United States because, under the Patriot and Real ID acts, they are tarred with having provided material support to terrorists – in the form of ransoms paid to kidnappers to secure a family member’s release.” He cited to the example of an Iraqi woman who had worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority only to have her son kidnapped by insurgents. Johnson noted that Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) derailed a legislative fix that would have protected refugees who have provided support under duress – and called on President Bush to exercise leadership to help Iraqis. Read New York Times Op-ed (4/18/07) Read Congressional Quarterly article (4/11/07) U.S. Announces Potential for Additional Resettlement of Iraqi Refugees On April 17 and 18, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights held a conference in Geneva, involving more than 60 nations, to address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the plight of refugees who have fled Iraq. In Geneva, the U.S. State Department announced that the U.S. “could resettle up to 25,000 Iraqi refugees” this year – if it received the referrals. The State Department also announced that the Bush Administration is sending draft special immigrant visa legislation to Congress, and expressed support for other potential legislative provisions. To read the State Department’s announcement of draft special immigrant visa legislation, click here. To read the transcript from the State Department press conference (4/17/07), click here. U.S. and Australia to “Swap” Refugees Cuban and Haitian refugees who have been interdicted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard and then held at Guantanamo Bay naval base could be sent to Australia, while Burmese and Sri Lankan refugees interdicted by Australia and detained on the island of Nauru could be resettled in the United States. This “Mutual Assistance Arrangement” was announced by the Australian government on April 17. Human Rights First has recommended that Cuban and Haitian refugees who are interdicted at sea should be brought to the United States and allowed to reunite with their families, and has criticized similar plans to trade refugees. At an April 18 press briefing, the U.S. State Department confirmed that, under the arrangement, the United States and Australia are willing to consider for resettlement up to 200 refugees each year referred by the other country. The State Department said that no refugee would be forced to accept resettlement, though it did not indicate whether these refugees would be given any choice – other than remaining at Guantanamo Bay or Nauru. Read Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship media release (4/17/07) Read U.S. State Department comments on the agreement during daily press briefing (4/18/07) Read BBC News story (4/18/07) Read Associated Press story in the Houston Chronicle (4/18/07) Background on HRF concerns about U.S. interdiction practice: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/asylum/torchlight/ newsletter/newslet_24.htm http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/asylum/torchlight/ newsletter/newslet_18.htm Announcements The 7th Annual Detention Watch Network Conference will take place on Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28. All DWN members are invited to attend at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. For more information, please see DWN’s website. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Jorge G. Bustamante, is scheduled to visit the United States from April 30 to May 16. The SR is an independent expert whose mandate is to observe conditions and treatment of migrants by governments around the world and report his findings to the UN Human Rights Council. For more information, see http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/migration/rapporteur/. Mr. Bustamante’s itinerary takes him to San Diego, Austin, Arizona, Atlanta, northern Florida, New York and New Jersey, and Washington D.C. He will visit three detention facilities – T. Don. Hutto Residential Center (Taylor, TX), Monmouth County Jail (Monmouth County, NJ), and a facility in Arizona (either Florence or Eloy). Please contact organizations in these areas for information about public hearings or other events that may take place during his visit.