Comprehensive Plan Details How U.S. Should Lead on Global Refugee Crisis

Washington, D.C. — Human Rights First today released “Respecting Rights and Securing Solutions,” a comprehensive plan for how the United States should address the global refugee crisis. The new report comes weeks before two major refugee summits slated for later this month in New York City, the United Nations High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants on September 19 and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees on September 20.

“Refugees desperately need these summits to yield solutions, not just suggestions. The United States should work to ensure these gatherings are meaningful and impactful,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley. “Our report charts the best course forward for the United States, one designed around action and accountability. Refugees need more than aid. They need access to solutions that respect and advance their human rights, as well as protection under international and domestic law. The world needs U.S. leadership to address this global refugee crisis, and this report is a road map for how to successfully provide it.”

Today’s report lays out steps the United States should take to lead a comprehensive effort to address the global refugee crisis and focuses on areas where U.S. action is vital. Most critically, the paper notes, the United States should champion the human rights of refugees, including the rights to protection from return to persecution, the ability to work legally, and freedom from deprivations of liberty and arbitrary detention. The paper notes that if basic human rights are not secured refugees will continue to die, suffer, and struggle to rebuild their lives.

Among the plan’s key recommendations for the New York summits and beyond are the following:

The United States should champion access to asylum and compliance with international law prohibitions against return or rejection of refugees, including:

  • Ending U.S. border policies that block access to asylum, limit the use of expedited removal proceedings, abandon regional initiatives that block access to asylum, and support initiatives that secure access to asylum.
  • Encourage nations that neighbor Syria to stop blocking refugees from fleeing their country and better support those countries through resettlement and aid.
  • Ensure NATO activities comply with human rights and refugee protection law.

The United States should work with other nations to meet UNHCR’s appeals to provide resettlement or other pathways to protection for 10 percent of the global refugee population, including:

  • Address staffing and efficiency gaps to reduce processing delays that hamper the effectiveness of U.S. resettlement and SIV initiatives.
  • Double the overall U.S. resettlement goal and urge European and other nations to substantially increase their resettlement efforts.
  • Increase the U.S. commitment to resettle Syrian refugees to a level of one hundred thousand, as recommended by a bipartisan group of former government officials.
  • Launch a private sponsorship resettlement initiative in the United States and encourage European states to create such programs.
  • Continue to address the delays, under-staffing and efficiency gaps that hamper the timeliness and effectiveness of U.S. resettlement and SIV initiatives.

Strengthen respect for the right to work, education, liberty, and free movement, including:

  • Increase access to legal work authorization for all refugees, champion the right to work, and support front-line states through assistance and development initiatives.
  • End U.S. detention policies that violate international law, including those relating to the detention of children and families, and encourage other nations to do so.
  • Support initiatives to protect refugees and migrants from xenophobic violence, prosecute perpetrators, and encourage the world’s leaders to condemn such incidents.

“Effectively addressing the global refugee crisis is both a humanitarian and national security imperative for the United States,” noted Eleanor Acer, author of the comprehensive report. “Without strong and sustained leadership, the crisis will continue to impact U.S. allies, undermine U.S. strategic interests globally and leave vulnerable refugees stranded in dangerous and difficult situations.  The United States should lead a more ambitious initiative to address the crisis, one that centers on securing state compliance with human rights and refugee protection legal obligations as well as solutions for all refugees. To lead by example, the United States must reform its own border policies to protect, rather than penalize, refugees and significantly increase its own commitment to resettlement.”

Today’s report describes how, for the United States, resolving the global refugee crisis is a national security imperative as well as a humanitarian priority. As a June 2016 bipartisan Statement of Principles on America’s Commitment to Refugees noted, “Accepting refugees, and encouraging other countries to do so, advances U.S. interests by support the stability of our allies struggling to host large numbers on their own.” And while some question the risk associated with taking refugees, bipartisan groups of U.S. national security experts – including former national security advisors, CIA directors, secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and States – have affirmed that refugees are “vetted more intensely than any other category of traveler” into the United States.

The number of refugees in the world has risen steeply in recent years and now exceeds 21 million. Nearly one in four has fled Syria. Seventy-six percent of the global refugee crisis comes from just ten countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Colombia. And ten countries – Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad – host 58 percent of refugees.

Earlier this week, the Obama Administration announced it had met its commitment to resettle “at least” ten thousand Syrian refugees by September 30, 2016. Human Rights First is urging the administration to raise that number to one hundred thousand in FY2017 in order to effectively lead and encourage other countries to do more.


Published on August 31, 2016


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