6-25-2011By Eleanor Acer
Director, Refugee Protection Program
In his July 23 Foreign Policy blog post, “The Arab Spring’s Looming Refugee Crisis,” writer Chris Ulack misreports Human Rights First’s recommendations for addressing the plight of refugees and migrants displaced due to the serious unrest in Libya. On March 1, Human Rights First outlined a range of steps that should be taken to protect the refugees and migrants fleeing from Libya – including through the protection of their rights as they fled to neighboring states and the provision of humanitarian assistance.
In the March 11 blog post cited by Mr. Ulack, Human Rights First does not argue that all refugees should be resettled (as he seems to imply) but instead flags for resettlement consideration a particular group of vulnerable refugees – those who had previously been stranded in Libya where some were already being processed for resettlement by UNHCR, and now had to flee again in search of protection. In that connection, Human Rights First reiterated some of its recommendations for improving the U.S. resettlement system, including to strengthen the inter-agency security clearance procedure to enable security checks “to be completed accurately and without unnecessary delays.”
Mr. Ulack also indicates that that refugee resettlement in the United States is a “divisive and political issue as of late” following arrests of two Iraqis – one of whom had allegedly conspired to attack U.S. troops inside Iraq before he was cleared to enter the United States. U.S. officials have, however, explained in various news reports that since this individual entered the country, the government has added additional safeguards to its security check system.
Moreover, U.S. support for refugees remains strong, as demonstrated over the last week by the various celebrations that have been held around the country, and in Washington DC, to mark World Refugee Day on June 20.
We agree with Mr. Ulack’s assertion that “the U.S. and other countries in coordination with the UNHCR must develop a way to ensure the protection of vulnerable refugee populations in border countries.” We also believe that the United States and other states should contribute to resettling some of the most vulnerable of these refugees – not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because this kind of cooperation can help encourage border states that often host the bulk of refugee populations to take steps to improve protection within their territories.