Judiciary Committee Should Press for Comprehensive Initiative to Address Refugee Crisis

Washington D.C. – Human Rights First today urged members of Congress to press the Obama Administration to lead a comprehensive global initiative in partnership with European and other states to address the global refugee crisis. The call came in a statement for the record submitted to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary ahead of its hearing today, “Oversight of the Administration’s FY 2016 Refugee Resettlement Program: Fiscal and Security Implications.”

“The United States has always led in times of international crises. This country should continue to be a beacon on human rights,” said Human Rights First in its statement. “The United States has not launched a significant resettlement initiative that would demonstrate to Syria’s neighbors a real commitment to share in hosting at least some of Syria’s refugees and would encourage other resettlement states to follow suit. A meaningful resettlement initiative, in addition to providing a future to the individual refugees and families it would directly assist, should be seen as part of a broader effort to increase the protection space available to Syrian refugees in the region and globally.”

Human Rights First pressed Congress to support a U.S.-led comprehensive global initiative in partnership with European and other states that should:

  • Increase resettlement and other routes to protection.  The United States should lead a global initiative that includes many countries to resettle or provide other admission to 1 to 1.5 million Syrian refugees. The United States should increase its own resettlement commitment to 100,000 Syrian refugees for fiscal year 2016 and implement more expeditious routes to protection for Syrian refugees with family in the United States and other at-risk refugees. In the next month, the administration should appoint a high-level coordinator in the White House to oversee the refugee response, as well as senior refugee coordinators at the Departments of State and Homeland Security. These officials should be tasked with securing significant improvements in the pace of the U.S. resettlement program as well as at the Departments of State and Homeland Security to address resettlement processing delays and logjams, and oversee the refugee response.
  • Ensure sufficient vetting resources. The resettlement process includes the execution of multiple security checks. In fact refugees are much more thoroughly vetted than other categories of individuals who come to the United States. The President should direct the FBI and other security vetting agencies to devote additional staff to the conduct and completion of such checks, to address some of the delays in the resettlement process.
  • Finally reform the resettlement process.  Over the next six months, the administration should review and reform the delay-plagued resettlement process to be more timely and effective without compromising security. This is not the first time the system has failed to respond adequately. Many Iraqis who worked with the U.S. military or U.S. entities were left stranded for years waiting to be brought to safety in the United States. Some suffered attacks while waiting for our slow resettlement process to move forward.   
  • Meet the humanitarian assistance goal. The United States should lead a global push to secure 100% funding of the UN’s humanitarian appeal for the Syria crisis, set a strong example by further stepping up its contribution to cover a higher percentage of the appeal, significantly increase development funding for refugee-hosting countries, press wealthy states to increase contributions and develop longer term strategies for meeting the front-line needs of refugees and hosting communities.
  • Champion protection for refugees. The United States should encourage states in the region neighboring Syria – and in Europe and beyond – to respect the human rights of refugees and migrants, including to allow refugees to work to support their families, to educate children, to facilitate access to higher education, and to respect obligations to protect people from arbitrary detention and return to persecution.
  • Redouble efforts to find effective multilateral solutions to the political and security crisis in Syria and to address the human rights abuses causing so many people to flee in search of protection.

“Congress can and should play a critical role in encouraging the United States to lead and to lead by example,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Congress should also support increased humanitarian and development assistance to front-line refugee hosting states, as well as increased funding to ensure the timely conduct of resettlement and security clearance processing. U.S. resettlement processing and security clearance processing should not be plagued by delays. These systems can be both effective and timely.”

Human Rights First, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jewish and other faith groups, and former government officials from both political parties – including national security experts – have called on the United States to increase its resettlement of Syrian refugees to 100,000 in fiscal year 2016. This should be accompanied by an increase of the total ceiling on refugees to 200,000.


Published on October 1, 2015


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