U.S. Reaches 10,000 Syrian Refugee Resettlement Goal
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today praised the Obama Administration for reaching its goal of admitting “at least 10,000” Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016. National Security Advisory Susan Rice announced that the goal will be met this afternoon and reiterated President Obama’s commitment to do more to “strengthen the international response to humanitarian crises around the world.”
“It is important to celebrate this milestone and to also refocus our attention on the crises driving these refugees from their homes,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley. “As President Obama prepares to gather world leaders next month, the administration should make clear that aid alone is not the solution to the ongoing global refugee crisis. The United States and its allies should continue to welcome Syrian refugees and to make sure that refugee solutions are rooted not solely in aid, but in respect for human rights.”
On September 20, President Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York City. The gathering is expected to focus on increasing humanitarian assistance funding, doubling the global number of refugees resettled, and ensuring one million more refugee children are in school and one million more refugees have a right to work in frontline countries. Human Rights First is urging the Obama Administration to use the Leaders’ Summit and the upcoming United Nations General Assembly discussion of this issues to:
- Champion the human rights of refugees;
- Secure state compliance with human rights and refugee protection legal obligations, particularly prohibitions against return or rejection of refugees;
- Lead by example at home by ending border policies that block access to asylum; and
- Double U.S. resettlement numbers, with at least 40 percent of the total coming from Syria.
These recommendations are among those contained in a new comprehensive plan Human Rights First will release this week. “Respecting Rights and Securing Solutions” details recommendations for the administration and Congress and aims to strengthen U.S. leadership on addressing the Syrian refugee crisis.
Human Rights First’s April 2016 report, “At Least 10,000” detailed the slow progress the Obama Administration made toward reaching the goal it hit today. The report outlined how U.S. processing of resettlement cases, as well as processing of Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications from individuals who worked with the U.S. military, have been hampered by bottlenecks, backlogs, and staffing gaps. As detailed in that report, addressing these ongoing backlogs would not undermine the security of the process; rather it would strengthen the integrity of the process which includes extensive security vetting.
In recent months, U.S. agencies increased staffing levels focused on Syrian resettlement and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent additional officers to the region to conduct Syrian resettlement interviews. In addition, government officials took steps to address some efficiency gaps in resettlement vetting, actions that occurred while maintaining rigorous security screening and that “all applicants will still be subject to the same stringent security requirements that apply to all applicants for U.S. refugee resettlement.”
National security experts have explained that U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees advances U.S. national security interests and would protect the stability of important U.S. allies in the region, as detailed in Human Rights First’s February report, “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership.” A December 2015 letter from a bipartisan group of 20 former U.S. national security advisors, CIA directors, secretaries of state, defense, and homeland security confirms this national security interest and that Syrian refugees are vetted more intensively than any other traveler to the United States. In addition, 32 of the nation’s most prominent national security leaders, retired military leaders, and former government officials, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, CIA Director General Michael Hayden, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), affirmed in a June 2016 Statement of Principles, “The United States has long been a refuge for those seeking safety and freedom, and for a simple reason: Americans believe their compassion and openness are sources not of weakness but strength. The demonstration of these qualities accords with the core ideals on which our nation was founded, and on which our greatness rests.”
“Leadership cannot be measured by data alone,” Quigley concluded. “The United States can and should do more to be a world leader in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. We encourage President Obama to use his upcoming Leaders’ Summit to detail the United States plan for the coming months and to reiterate our nation’s commitment to helping refugees. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it will ultimately make our country more secure.”