Refugees International President Eric P. Schwartz Announces August 2022 Departure

After five years of dedicated service to Refugees International, President Eric P. Schwartz announced his departure from the organization effective at the end of August 2022. In the below note to colleagues and friends, Schwartz reflects on his five years of leadership and how the organization has progressed during his tenure at a critically important time for Refugees International’s mission. Information about a careful search for his successor is forthcoming. 

Dear Colleagues:

I write to share personal information of some consequence. 

After a great deal of reflection and careful consideration, I’ve made the extremely difficult decision to depart Refugees International, effective the end of August 2022.

I love working at Refugees International, and this role has been and continues to be gratifying to me in every way. And this decision was only made more difficult by both my commitment to Refugees International’s mission and the very high regard I have for our staff, our board of directors, our advisory council, our friends, and our supporters. 

Several factors have influenced my thinking as I considered whether to make this transition.

The University of Minnesota and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs were more than gracious in extending to me a five-year leave of absence following my deanship, a leave that concludes this fall. And I am excited by the opportunities to teach students and engage colleagues, to research and write on humanitarianism and related issues, and to consider how I can continue to contribute to public life in the years to come.

I will also depart conscious that the organization I have had the honor to steward is very well-positioned for future success based on solid progress achieved over the past five years, including under very challenging conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New programs and initiatives are enabling Refugees International more effectively to pursue its critical mission. Our wonderful staff have driven these efforts, which focus on U.S. asylum policy and practice, on building stronger constituencies in support of refugee rights, on encouraging labor market access—with rights—for refugees in host countries around the world, and on partnering more effectively with communities in affected countries. 

Moreover, COVID-19 limitations on travel did not prevent us from sustaining and even strengthening reporting and advocacy efforts, based in large measure on new partnerships with counterparts in countries hosting displaced populations. Our advocates have now resumed travel, but it is nonetheless encouraging to know that we were able to continue to play these roles notwithstanding travel restrictions.

Finally, my ability to inform stakeholders of my plans well in advance of my departure provides Refugees International with an opportunity for a careful search for my successor and a smooth transition. And I will do everything possible to see that the next many months are an affirming experience for the organization. 

Transitions are a time for reflection about what has transpired and what comes next. 

Five years ago, at the advent of a U.S. presidential administration that sought to undermine long-established norms of refugee protection and to do violence to refugee rights, I was asked by the Refugees International board of directors to assume the organization’s presidency. I did so with great enthusiasm and determination, and Refugees International played a key role in resisting abuses against refugees and in promoting refugee protection during the prior presidential administration—and has continued to do so today. I have no doubt whatsoever that under new leadership, Refugees International will only strengthen its capacity to champion the rights and the well-being of forcibly displaced persons and those otherwise impacted by humanitarian disasters.

In the meantime, and as always, there is so much to be done, and I look forward to continuing to work with my valued Refugees International colleagues in the many months to come. 

With my kind regards,

Eric Schwartz
President, Refugees International 

For inquiries, contact Refugees International’s VP for Strategic Outreach Sarah Sheffer at

PHOTO CAPTION: Refugees International President Eric P. Schwartz speaking to displaced individuals in Bangladesh in 2017 (left) and Minnesota (right).