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Home / Blog / Washington Week on Human Rights: October 3, 2016
October 03, 2016

Washington Week on Human Rights: October 3, 2016

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Refugee Resettlement

The Obama Administration has reached its refugee resettlement goal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, which ended on Friday. Early reports indicate that the United States resettled approximately 85,000 refugees from all countries, including 12,587 Syrian refugees fleeing horrific violence and persecution.

Throughout FY 2016 Human Rights First called on the administration to address bottlenecks, backlogs, and delays hampering the resettlement of thoroughly vetted Syrian refugees. In our reports “At Least 10,000” and “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership" Human Rights First detailed ways the United States can uphold its responsibility to protect refugees and lead a global effort to address the worst refugee crisis since World War II. 

Earlier this month the Obama Administration announced that its FY 2017 resettlement goal is at least 110,000. While a step forward, this commitment still falls far short of U.S. “fair share” levels, which Oxfam calculates to be 163,392 for Syrians alone and approximately 650,000 with respect to refugees from all nations. Congress is currently considering spending bills for FY 2017 that include drastic cuts to funding levels for refugee resettlement that if passed would make it challenging for the United States to meet even its relatively modest FY 2017 goals.

Family Detention

On Friday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers released new recommendations urging DHS to end its policy of detaining children and their families, and to cease placing asylum seeking families in expedited removal proceedings. The recommendations are in line with Human Rights First’s own findings.

In a report issued last year on conditions in the Berks Family Detention Center in Pennsylvania, where 22 mothers held a hunger strike earlier this year to protest their prolonged detention, Human Rights First detailed that a growing body of medical and mental health literature has found that even short-term detention is harmful to children’s health. Many of the families detained at Berks have been held there for over a year, with some young children having spent half of their lives confined.

U.S. immigration detention has reached record highs. In recent months, the detained population has remained near 37,000 to 38,000, at least a 35 percent increase since last spring, when the population was just over 27,000. Many, possibly even the majority, are asylum seekers. 

Hungary Referendum

On Sunday, Hungary held a referendum on refugee resettlement that posed the question of whether Hungarians want the European Union to be able to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of parliament. While 98 percent of voters opposed resettlement, fewer than half of the country’s voters cast a ballot, which invalidates the referendum. Even if the vote had been valid, its immediate significance would be questionable. Not only is there no specific E.U. proposal to carry out the resettlement, but the vague language of the referendum would only apply moving forward, meaning that it could not reverse the September 2015 E.U. decision it was designed to overturn.

The referendum has been a touchstone for E.U.-skeptics and a vehicle for amplifying the voices of those spreading fear of and hate for refugees.  Even in the wake of the nullified vote, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is touting the vote as a win. The Prime Minister claims the vote is a mandate for legislative action, a sign that the toxic anti-refugee dialogue that fueled the result is likely to continue.

Quote of the Week

“Shimon Peres reminds us that the State of Israel, like the United States of America, was not built by cynics. We exist because people before us refused to be constrained by the past or the difficulties of the present. And Shimon Peres was never cynical.  It is that faith, that optimism, that belief—even when all the evidence is to the contrary—that tomorrow can be better, that makes us not just honor Shimon Peres, but love him.” 

—President Barack Obama, Memorial Service for Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, Jerusalem 

We’re Reading

Joe Jenkins writes in The Waco Tribune that Texas needs to do more in the global refugee crisis.

Brian Dooley writes in the The Hill that it’s time for action in Bahrain.

The Washington Blade reports that militants are using social media to lure and kill gay Iraqi men.

The Daily Mail reports on an increase in the number of France’s Jews that are considering emigrating to Israel.

Daniel Baer, U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, writes in a post on Medium that government organized NGOs are polluting Europe’s largest human rights conference.

Around Town

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion entitled, “Charting a Way Forward in Afghanistan.” The discussion will feature former CIA director David Petraeus, partner at KKR; James Dobbins, senior fellow at the RAND Corporation; James Cunningham, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy; and Michael O’Hanlon, co-director of the Brookings Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. 10:30 AM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.       

The Cato Institute will hold a discussion entitled, “Refugees, Immigrants and National Security.” The discussion will feature Charles Stimson, manager of the National Security Law Program and senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy; Shibley Telhami, professor at the University of Maryland and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at Cato; and A. Trevor Thrall, senior fellow at Cato. 12:00 PM, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave NW, F.A. Hayek Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The Newseum will hold a discussion entitled “Reporting from the Frontlines of the Global Refugee Crisis.” The discussion will feature Deb Amos, covers the Middle East for NPR News; Brian Sokol, independent photographer who documents human rights issues and humanitarian crises in conflict-affected societies; Phil Zabriskie, editorial director for MSF-USA; and Margaret Warner, chief foreign affairs correspondent for PBS NewsHour 2:00 PM, The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Knight Studio, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Institute of World Politics will hold a lecture entitled, “The State of the World’s Armed Conflict.” The lecture will be led by Lt. Col. Alexandre Vautravers, associate fellow at the University of Geneva’s Global Studies Institute. 4:30 PM, IWP, 1521 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.                 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The National Endowment for Democracy will hold a discussion entitled, “The Implications of Political Violence in Putin’s Russia.” The discussion will feature Russian journalist Leonid Martynyuk; Kyle Parker, staff member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Maria Snegovaya, columnist at Vedomosti; Miriam Lanskoy, senior director for Russia and Eurasia at NED; and Carl Gershman, president of NED. 4:00 PM, NED, 1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will hold a discussion entitled, “Immigration and National Security: Balancing Interests,” featuring the release of a BPC/Chicago Council on Global Affairs report titled “Immigration, National Security, and Public Safety: Balancing Priorities.” 10:00 AM, BPC,1225 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C.