Haley Urged to Seek a Comprehensive Solution to Syrian Refugee Crisis During Upcoming Trip to Jordan and Turkey

New York City—As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley prepares to travel to Jordan and Turkey, Human Rights First today called on Ambassador Haley to prioritize not only U.S. humanitarian assistance for refugees fleeing violence in Syria but also other key elements of a comprehensive response to the global refugee crisis, including U.S. resettlement initiatives, a fully funded assistance and diplomatic budget, development investment in host countries, and respect for the human rights of refugees. Ambassador Haley is scheduled to visit Turkey and Jordan on May 19-25 to learn about the situation facing Syrian refugees in these countries and witness the impact of United Nations and United States humanitarian assistance.

“Following President Trump’s diplomatically damaging efforts to ban Syrian refugees, Ambassador Haley will have the opportunity to see the impact of U.S. policies and rhetoric first hand, and to send a fresh message of support to the countries that host the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Ambassador Haley will see how humanitarian aid alone is not sufficient for addressing this global crisis. We urge her to use this trip to reset the Trump Administration’s approach to the Syrian refugee crisis, recognizing that U.S. leadership demands a comprehensive initiative that should include increased aid as well as development investments, protection of refugees’ human rights, and a meaningful increase in U.S. refugee resettlement.”

The number of Syrian refugees resettled to the United States has fallen sharply under President Trump, dropping 71% in the months following his inauguration—from 5,422 in the four month period between September 19, 2016 and January 19, 2017 to 1,566 during the comparable period between January, 20 2017 and May 18, 2017. Just days after his inauguration, President Trump issued an executive order that sought to indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees. While that order, and a subsequent version that also sought to suspend refugee resettlement, have been enjoined by U.S. federal courts for now, the number of Syrian refugees resettled to the United States continues to remain alarmingly low given the scale of the refugee crisis.

While visiting Jordan and Turkey, Ambassador Haley will have the opportunity to review U.S. programs and should take the opportunity to learn about the strength of U.S. refugee resettlement vetting. Former U.S. national security officials and former military leaders, who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations, have confirmed—again and again—that refugees are rigorously vetted and that resettling refugees is not only consistent with American ideals; it also advances U.S. national security interests. In a June 2016 Statement of Principles on America’s Commitment to Refugees, a bipartisan group of former national security officials stressed that, “Accepting refugees, and encouraging other countries to do so, advances U.S. interests by supporting the stability of our allies struggling to host large numbers on their own.”

In order to lead a comprehensive plan to address the Syrian refugee crisis, the United States should:

  1. Ensure the Trump administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request fully funds bilateral and multilateral programs essential to supporting refugees. President Trump’s budget blueprint points to drastic cuts to the State Department, USAID, and U.N. programs, all of which are essential to providing necessary assistance and diplomatic support to refugees. Taken together, these cuts threaten to greatly erode U.S. leadership in protecting and caring for the world’s most vulnerable people.
  2. Work with other donor states to fully meet humanitarian appeals and significantly increase U.S. humanitarian aidand development investmentsin frontline refugee hosting states. The United States and other donors should expand and replicate initiatives that increase opportunities for refugees to work and access education, while also supporting refugee-hosting communities. In particular, the United States should lead the international community—including Europe, the Gulf Cooperation Council, other G20 countries, international organizations, and the private sector—to create a sustainable global economic strategy that commits resources and technical assistance to spur economic growth in the countries hosting Syrian refugees.
  3. Champion the protection of the rights of refugees, including their right to work, access education, and cross borders in order to escape persecution. The United States should encourage Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, and other states in the region surrounding Syria to comply with international law prohibitions against refoulement and to stop blocking or preventing Syrians from fleeing their country. The United States and other nations should better support those states through resettlement and aid, and help Jordan transfer Syrians stranded in dangerous desert areas to safety so they can be screened and afforded access to asylum, resettlement, or protection. The United States should encourage Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and other countries to take additional steps to allow refugees to work to support themselves. The United States should also increase funding for, and access to, primary and secondary education as well as scholarships to universities.
  4. Substantially increase the U.S. resettlement commitment and encourage other states to step up their resettlement and admission of Syrian refugees. To support front-line nations hosting the overwhelming majority of refugees and to provide protection to the small portion of vulnerable refugees in need of resettlement, the United States should significantly increase its resettlement initiative to a level more commensurate with U.S. leadership.  This move would also help push other countries to increase resettlement, visa, and other humanitarian admission places for Syrian refugees. The United States should continue to address staffing and efficiency gaps to reduce processing delays that hamper the effectiveness of U.S. resettlement and SIV initiatives.

Human Rights First detailed the elements of a comprehensive refugee response in reports issued in February and August 2016.


Published on May 19, 2017


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