Refugees Must Not be Defamed

In the aftermath of last week’s tragic events in France, Lebanon, and Sinai, Refugees International extends its deepest condolences to all who have suffered unimaginable loss due to the hateful, egregious acts of terrorists claiming affiliation to ISIS. We join them in mourning their loved ones and wish them peace and solace during this difficult time.

In the wake of these tragedies, we must resolutely resist those who try to defame refugees and turn their back on them by playing on the politics of fear. There are currently 60 million refugees and internally displaced people across the globe who are fleeing violence, persecution, and terrorism – from Syria to Somalia and from Ukraine to South Sudan. Over many decades, the international community has been committed to protecting those who flee persecution and conflict. The tragedy that has engulfed Syria over the past five years, which we have not been able to stem, requires that these international commitments be more than ever sustained.

Each country that accepts refugees has the right to ensure proper screening of persons arriving through the resettlement process. Despite what some have claimed these past few days, the U.S. has one of the most thorough, laborious background check systems in place throughout the world. Because of this extensive review by the FBI, Department of Defense, and other agencies, it regularly takes two years or more for a refugee to arrive in the U.S. through the resettlement program. In fact, the acceptance of an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees which President Obama recently announced will bring refugees who have been undergoing vetting for years – some since the Syrian conflict began four years ago.

Since the war in Syria began, RI has fought to ensure that humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter, and lifesaving medical care, is available to those displaced both inside and outside Syria. RI has also spent months in neighboring countries hosting millions of Syrians, and documented the types of assistance needed so that we could forcefully argue for more support from the international community. We will continue to fight for increased assistance to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt with whom we must cooperate to help Syrian refugees who are in desperate need of aid.

Turning our backs on Syrian refugees, many of whom are the survivors of terrorist assaults, is playing into the hands of the very people that forced their flight. We hope that you will join us as we work to mitigate the harm that could be caused by dangerous anti-refugee rhetoric.

Michel Gabaudan
President, Refugees International