President Obama Urged to Press King Abdullah II on Syrian Refugee Crisis
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First urges President Barack Obama to use his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan to advance protection for refugees fleeing the unrelenting violence in Syria. In their meeting on Friday, President Obama should press the Jordanian king to cease blanket denials of entry at borders that have left thousands of civilians trapped inside the Syrian war zone, and he should offer increased U.S. support to help alleviate the crisis.
“Ultimately, the solution to this crisis lies in cessation of the violence that is causing innocent people to flee for their lives. But the Assad regime is escalating attacks on civilians, and the Geneva II process has yet to produce concrete results,” wrote Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino in a letter to President Obama sent last week. “In addition to the moral imperative of protecting those who have fled the brutality in Syria, robust American leadership on this issue could help to bolster our nation’s credibility in a region where perceptions of the United States are increasingly negative.”
The United States has so far provided $300 million in bilateral budget support to Jordan, as well as over $30 million to assist with the strains on the water and education systems. This funding is in addition to significant U.S. humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Syria’s other neighboring countries. However, Human Rights First notes that the United States can do more to help protect Syrian refugees and support Syria’s neighbors by stepping up its effort to resettle vulnerable Syrian refugees.
Human Rights First has called for the United States to resettle at least 15,000 Syrian refugees each year, subject to evolving need. In a release last week, the administration announced that it would take important steps to address impediments facing refugees waiting to be resettled to the United States, including Syrian refugees. Two new exemptions from the overly-broad inadmissibility provisions of U.S. immigration law may provide an avenue for protection for some vulnerable Syrian refugees who have engaged in no wrongdoing and pose no threat to the United States. In her letter, Massimino also noted that there is support from both sides of the aisle to increase resettlement of Syrian refugees. Only 36 Syrian refugees were resettled to the United States in fiscal year 2013.
“By standing up for all who are fleeing violence, the United States will be championing key human rights principles such as non-discrimination and protection of vulnerable minorities as well as upholding the United States’ proud tradition of protecting refugees,” wrote Massimino.