Washington Week on Human Rights: September 14, 2015

Top News

Global Refugee Crisis Last week, the Obama Administration announced that it plans to increase the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to the United States by 5,000 from 70,000 to 75,000, including a commitment to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees. Human Rights First said the increase is not enough to make a significant impact on the global refugee crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 4 million Syrians have fled their country due to conflict and persecution, and 7.6 million are displaced within Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. Many of these refugees have been stranded for years in neighboring countries where they cannot work or support their families, have little access to education, and lack the level of humanitarian assistance they need. The United Nations’ global humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees is only 37% funded, and food assistance has been cut. Without meaningful access to resettlement in other safe countries, many are turning to dangerous routes to reach places of safety where they can rebuild their lives. The organization has called on the administration to resettle at least 100,000 Syrian refugees and to lead a comprehensive global initiative to improve access to protection for refugees and asylum seekers.

GUANTANAMO According to weekend news reports, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently notified Congress that he intends to soon transfer an additional two detainees out of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Sources say the Pentagon has four additional transfer notices ready to send to Congress in the coming weeks. Congress has 30 days to review the transfers before they are made public. There are currently 116 detainees at Guantanamo, and about half of those remaining have been cleared for transfer by U.S. intelligence and security agencies. Human Rights First has issued a blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo,” detailing steps the administration should take to meet the president’s goal of closing the facility before the conclusion of his second term.

Quote of the Week

“So why should we take in refugees? Simply because it is the right thing to do, because it’s in keeping with who we say we are, and because we remain collectively a wealthy nation and can afford it. Pride in our moral claims is not limited to any economic class. In fact, the least advantaged are often the most generous.

“We should do it because we have always regretted leaving people in grave danger instead of taking them in. We should never forget our failure to give refuge to more European Jews before they were marched into Hitler’s death camps.

“We should do it because the United States wants to be in a position to say to our European friends and the Gulf States, who have been shamefully reluctant to act, that we are doing our part and they should do theirs. (And bless Germany for standing up on this.) We should do it because this a case where we have a practical way to help alleviate ungodly agony.”

—E.J. Dionne Jr. in the September 13 edition of The Washington Post

We’re Reading

In a piece for CNN, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) made the case for a new legislative arms ban on the repressive Bahraini government.

The Hill reported on hopes that Pope Francis will discuss the need to end family immigration detention during his upcoming visit to the United States.

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, and The Los Angeles Times discussed President Obama’s decision to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year.

On the air for Al Jazeera, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer argued that the United States can and should do much more to protect Syrian refugees.

We’re Listening

Last week, The Diane Rehm Show examined the world response to the accelerating migrant crisis in Europe. The conversation included Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino; Deborah Ball, Italy bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal; Stephan Richter, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist; and David O’Sullivan, E.U. Ambassador to the United States.

On the Hill

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hear on Syria, Iraq, and the Fight Against ISIS. The committee will hear testimony from Dr. Kimberly Kagan, President of the Institute for the Study of War, and Mr. Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. 2:30PM, Senate Dirksen 419

Around Town

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Freedom House will hold a discussion on “International Religious Freedom: An Embattled Right.” The event will feature Robert George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. 12PM, Freedom House, 1850 M Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a discussion on “Understanding and Combating Anti-Semitism in Present-Day Europe.” The event will feature French Inter-ministerial Delegate for the Fight Against Racism and Anti-Semitism Gilles Clavruel; Personal Representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism Rabbi Andrew Baker; Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent at the Atlantic; and Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic at CSIS. 2PM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Second Floor Conference Center, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute will hold a discussion on “U.S. Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East: Priorities and Challenges.” The event will feature Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson; and Shirin Tahir-Kheli, senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Institute at SAIS. 1PM, SAIS, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Kenney Herter Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

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Published on September 14, 2015

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