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Home / Press Release / President Obama Highlights Refugee Crisis, Government Repression During UN Address
September 28, 2015

President Obama Highlights Refugee Crisis, Government Repression During UN Address

Washington, DC – Human Rights first today praised President Obama for using his United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) address this morning to emphasize the need for leadership to address the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as the importance of combating extremism by supporting democratic reform and respect for human rights. The president mentioned plans to launch a U.S. effort to better address the global refugee crisis, and he raised concerns over the continuing repression and sectarianism that is fueling conflict and the growth of violent extremism.

“The president rightly raised the need for a comprehensive global effort to address the largest refugee crisis since World War II,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Unfortunately the current U.S. commitment to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees falls short of the leadership needed to inspire other nations to follow suit. We urge the administration to heed its own call to action by significantly increasing the U.S. commitment to resettle at least 100,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year.”

Human Rights First urges the administration to lead a comprehensive global initiative—in partnership with European and other states—to improve access to protection for refugees and asylum seekers. A key component of this initiative should include increased refugee resettlement so that refugees have safe routes to use to secure resettlement in other countries, as well as steps to better protect the human rights of migrants and refugees. This initiative to should include:  

  • Increased resettlement. The United States should encourage other resettlement states to increase their commitments to resettle Syrian refugees, and the United States should itself announce a commitment to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016. President Obama should increase the U.S. annual ceiling for refugee admissions from 70,000 to 200,000 in order to facilitate this major resettlement initiative.  
  • Meet the humanitarian assistance goal, and increase development assistance. The United States should ensure that the UN humanitarian appeal for Syria is fully funded by encouraging other states to increase their contributions to the appeal, and by significantly stepping up U.S. contributions for humanitarian and development assistance to the region. 
  • Redouble efforts to find effective multilateral solutions to the political and security crisis in Syria and to address the human rights abuses that are causing so many people to flee their homes and their countries in search of protection.  
  • Improve protection in neighboring states and globally. The United States should encourage states to allow refugees to work to support their families, to access education, and to respect obligations to protect refugees from arbitrary detention or return to persecution. All efforts to combat smuggling and trafficking should safeguard the human rights of refugees and migrants.

The president also urged members of the United Nations to support inclusive democracy that respects the rights of all people, supports a thriving civil society, freedom of the press, avenues for peaceful dissent, and education for women and girls.

“Increasing instability and political unrest in the Middle East continues to be fueled by government repression and sectarianism. We applaud President Obama for firmly stating the reality that promoting good governance, democratic reform, the rule of law, and respect for human rights are not constraints but essential tools in countering violent extremism,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks.

Human Rights First continues to urge President Obama to to reinforce the link between repression and rising violent extremism during the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism (CVE) that will take place tomorrow. The organization urges the president to press for firm commitments to a comprehensive CVE strategy.

For more information or to speak with Acer or Hicks, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at [email protected] or 212-845-5269.