In Germany, Obama Urged to Promote Refugee Protection and Support Efforts to Address Antisemitism and Extremism

New York City – In light of his upcoming meetings in Germany, Human Rights First today called on President Obama to promote the protection of refugees and to offer support to the German government in its ongoing efforts to address the root causes of growing antisemitism and extremism in Europe. The president is scheduled to meet with top European allies on Monday during a summit organized by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Between the increased refugee arrivals and financial instability in Europe, Germany is at a critical juncture. The United States should publicly support the German government’s efforts to combat the rise of antisemitic and xenophobic extremism,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “This is important to Germany’s own political stability, and more broadly the stability of Europe,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke.

As Europe struggles to respond to the refugee crisis, far-right groups have been emboldened, and their “clash of civilizations” narrative inhibits policymaking, sows fear and societal divisions, and creates permissive conditions for violent hate crimes to occur. As Germany has dealt with an increasing number of antisemitic incidents, its leaders have called for global action.This year, Germany serves as chair of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), and has made combating antisemitism and promoting tolerance a priority. Human Rights First is urging the Obama Administration to support the strengthening of the OSCE as a vital democratic transatlantic security organization, and to stand behind Germany to lead the fight against antisemitism and xenophobic violence with the urgency the problems demands.

At Monday’s summit, leaders will have an opportunity to discuss challenges relating to the global refugee crisis. A recent Human Rights First report “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership,” describes how the lack of effective protection in the region surrounding Syria, exacerbated by insufficient assistance and orderly resettlement or visa routes for refugees, has driven many Syrians to embark on dangerous trips to Europe. With inadequate support from other nations, Turkey and other the states surrounding Syria have closed their borders, blocking civilians from escaping Syria, and in some cases imposed restrictions that make it difficult for many refugees living in the region to remain. Refugees are often denied permission to work to support themselves, and their children often face impediments to accessing education.

Human Rights First notes that in the wake of World War II, the United States helped draft the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees so that refugees would never again be abandoned in the face of persecution. The Convention and the international law that has developed since make clear that refugees should not be prevented from escaping their countries.

During meetings with the European leaders and in public comments, Human Rights First urges President Obama to:

  • Offer public support to Germany in its efforts to combat extremism, xenophobic violence, and antisemitism throughout Europe;
  • Announce that the United States will lead a comprehensive initiative to address the global refugee crisis, encouraging all nations to do more to support increased humanitarian aid, development investment, resettlement, and the protection of the rights of refugees to work, access education and cross borders to secure protection;
  • Announce that the United States will lead by example, significantly increasing its commitment to resettle Syrian refugees during the next fiscal year;
  • Call on all nations–including Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and the European Union–to abide by international laws’ prohibitions against returning refugees to persecution or rejecting them at borders; and
  • Urge the European Union to immediately implement safeguards to protect refugees from improper return and deportations that violate the rights of refugees to seek protection.

A new Human Rights First fact sheet outlines recommendations for President Obama during his meetings in Germany.


Published on April 22, 2016


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