Washington Week on Human Rights: September 22, 2015

Top News

Global Refugee Crisis Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States will increase the annual number of refugees it takes in by 15,000, bringing the total to 85,000 for the 2016 fiscal year. Human Rights First said the increase is a modest step compared to the scale of the current global refugee crisis. According to the United Nations, 7.6 million people are currently displaced in Syria and need immediate humanitarian assistance, and over 4 million have fled due to conflict and persecution. 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 access to basic care. The U.N. global humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees is only 37 percent funded, and food assistance has been cut. Without meaningful access to resettlement in other safe countries, many are turning to more dangerous routes to reach places of safety where they can rebuild their lives. Human Rights First continues to urge the Obama Administration to lead a global effort to address the situation, including increasing the refugee ceiling to 200,000 to support a commitment to resettle at least 100,000 Syrian refugees during the next fiscal year.

Guantanamo Yesterday, The New York Times published an editorial calling on the Obama Administration to fulfill its pledge to shut the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and to implement a plan to reach this goal. The editorial came just days after the United States transferred Guantanamo detainee Younis Chekkouri to his home country of Morocco, bringing the total number of detainees held at the facility to 115. 52 of these remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 53 are eligible for Periodic Review Board assessment. 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.

Papal Visit This week, His Holiness Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States, where he has events scheduled in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City. On Thursday, the Pope will address a joint session of Congress and deliver a speech that many speculate will touch on important human rights issues such as ending human trafficking, the ongoing global refugee crisis, immigration detention, climate change, and prison reform.

Quote of the Week

“It is long past time for this nonsense to end. The Guantánamo prison camp is the most potent symbol of a disgraceful era of American history. Many people bear responsibility for its creation and its continued operation, but only one man has the power to generate the type of momentum needed to end this legal and moral abomination.”

—A September 20 editorial in The New York Times calling on President Obama to fulfill his pledge to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

We’re Reading

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported on Secretary Kerry’s announcement that the United States will modestly increase the total number of refugees it resettles during the next two years.

Foreign Policy examined the U.S. history of taking in refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that there may be delays for Syrian refugees seeking resettlement in the coming year.

The Daily Beast reported on movement of Kyrgyzstan’s severe anti-gay propaganda bill, which will likely pass in October and would be a major setback for the region’s LGBT community.

As Greece hosted parliamentary elections, The Guardian reported on the rise of far-right antisemitic party Golden Dawn.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a protest of the family detention center in Berks County, Pennsylvania, citing the harm that detention has on the mental and physical health of children and their mothers.

The New York Times discussed the legal and moral quagmire of the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay and urged the Obama Administration to take the necessary steps to close it.

We’re Listening

WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” featured an interview with Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer, who discussed the logistical and political questions that arise from the Obama Administration’s plan to bring more Syrian refugees to the United States.

On the Hill

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Susan Coppedge to be director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking. 10AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The United States Senate will hold a joint meeting with the House of Representatives to receive an address from Pope Francis. Senate Chamber, 9:20 a.m., U.S. Capitol

Around Town

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Center for American Progress (CAP) will hold a discussion on “Pope Francis in the United States: Challenges and Opportunities for Progressives.” The program will feature Senator Edward Markey, D-Mass.; John Gehring, Catholic program director of Faith in Public Life; Rudy Lopez, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice; Shantha Ready Alonso, executive director of Creation Justice Ministries; Sally Steenland, director of the CAP Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative; and Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress. 3PM, CAP, 1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) will host a discussion on “The Migrant Crisis in Europe.” The event will feature Nancy Lindborg, president of the United States Institute of Peace; Gregory Maniatis, senior European policy fellow at the Migration Policy Institute; and Susan Martin, director of the Georgetown University Institute for the Study of International Migration. 8:30AM, CFR, 1777 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will hold a discussion on “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Rights in Cuba: A Step Toward Real Reforms or Double Standard Socialism?” 3PM, SAIS, Rome Building, 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Auditorium, Washington, D.C.


Published on September 22, 2015


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