Victims of Terrorist Acts and Oppression Denied Asylum in United States

Human Rights First released a new report today documenting the impact of sweeping immigration law definitions on refugees who seek asylum from political and religious persecution.

The law bars refugees who provide material support to terrorist organizations from being granted asylum in the United States. “The tragic irony is that these overly broad legal provisions are now being used to deny protection to victims of oppression and terror who do not support terrorism at all,” said Eleanor Acer, director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection program.

The report addresses the impact of the material support bar on the U.S. asylum system and on those who seek asylum in this country. Many refugees have had their asylum requests denied or relegated to a long-term administrative limbo. The time that they have spent in immigration jails – or separated from their families – has been prolonged by months or even years.

Among the refugees affected by this bar are a nurse from Colombia who was kidnapped and forced to provide medical treatment to terrorists and a Christian missionary worker who was persecuted by the Burmese military regime and made donations to a resistance group. Both of these asylum seekers, themselves the victims of terrorism or repression, have been unjustly labeled as having provided material support to terrorist organizations.

The immigration subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on refugee admissions and the material support bar on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 3:00 p.m. The material support bar has devastated the U.S. resettlement program, preventing thousands of refugees from being brought to safety in the United States.

“If the United States is to uphold its reputation as a safe haven for those fleeing political and religious persecution,” Acer stated, “both Congress and the administration must act to ensure that the innocent victims of terrorism and repression are not wrongfully denied protection.”

The report includes a comprehensive set of recommendations which would ensure the protection of legitimate refugees and asylum seekers without undermining U.S. security.


Published on September 26, 2006


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