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Newsweek: Donald Trump Gets Failing Grade on Report Card for Treatment of Refugees: His 'Performance Has Only Gotten Worse'

This piece was originally published in Newsweek here.

President Donald Trump and his administration have received a failing grade on a report card assessing the U.S. government's performance on refugee and humanitarian protection.

Released on Monday by Refugees International, an independent humanitarian organization advocating for better support for displaced and stateless people, the new report card finds Trump and his administration wanting for the second year running.

"In this report card, we found that as bad as the Trump administration's performance was last year, in fact, this year it has gotten worse," Refugees International President Eric Schwartz told Newsweek in an interview.

"It reflects such a tale of cruelty and woe that really isn't adequately captured in the daily reporting of the media because it is coming from so many different directions," he said.

Out of seven categories assessing the U.S.'s status on refugee and humanitarian protection, the Trump administration earned an "F," or a failing grade on five.

Among those five were the government's slashing of its Refugee Admissions Program as well as its its efforts to revoke the Temporary Protected Status program for approximately 320,000 people. The Trump administration also received an "F" on its efforts on humanitarian funding, asylum and "strengthening the multilateral system of refugee, migration and humanitarian response."

"The Trump administration continues to undermine U.S. refugee law and longstanding U.S. humanitarian policy through cruel practices toward families seeking asylum, weakening the U.S. asylum process, and crippling the U.S. Refugee Admissions program," a summary of the report card's findings states.

Meanwhile, "overseas, President Trump continued restrictions on life-saving humanitarian aid—including aid to refugee women and girls—failed to lead efforts to end conflicts inflicting humanitarian suffering, and separated the United States from broad-based global efforts to improve global responses on migration and refugees," it says.

Overall, it found that the Trump administration's "performance has only gotten worse" when it comes to its approach on refugee and humanitarian protection.

While the Trump administration did fail the majority of the categories covered by the report card, it managed to escape with just a "D," or an "unsatisfactory, though minimally acceptable" grade on two issues: Diplomacy to save lives and its efforts to assist refugee women and girls.

"Among the humanitarian crises currently causing the greatest suffering are those in Myanmar, Syria, and Yemen. President Trump is responsible for none of them, but presidential leadership could be critical to mitigating future suffering," the report states. "To date, the president's actions—and failures to act—have been extremely damaging to vulnerable populations in these countries."

Despite "what has probably been one of the greatest mass crimes of our generation," Schwartz said of the brutal expulsion of some 700,000 Rohingya in 2017 and the killings of thousands more by Myanmar's security forces, "the president has been remarkably and astonishingly... silent."

Meanwhile, on Yemen, where there are more than 24 million people in need of assistance and protection according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Trump administration has "failed to hold the Saudi-led coalition to account," the report continues.

While the report states that the Trump administration's policy approach on Syria "continues to lack coherence," it does note that the government "has slowed its disengagement from northeast Syria."

"The administration has been partially successful in negotiating with Turkey a limited buffer zone between Turkey and Syrian-Kurdish forces in northeast Syria," it continues. "However, it has failed to commit adequate diplomatic resources toward efforts to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib in Syria's northwest."

On the Trump administration's efforts to support refugee women and girls, the Refugees International report card states that the Trump administration "continues to impose policies that either roll back or threaten important global gains for the protection of women and girls."

Pointing to the Trump administration's decision to reinstate and expand what had been known as the Mexico City Policy, or the Global Gag Rule, which prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing legal abortion services or referrals, as well as from advocating for abortion law reform, the report card notes that "in early 2019, the administration took the policy even further."

"The U.S. government now will not fund foreign NGOs that use any monies—even if those monies do not come from the U.S. government—to support other organizations that provide information on abortion," it said.

However, one of the main reasons that the Trump administration did not receive a "completely failing grade" on this issue, was that "there is an exception to these prohibitions in the case of humanitarian and disaster-related foreign assistance accounts."

While the Trump administration narrowly evaded an "F" on both issues, Schwartz said the "D" it received on both fronts should signal "unsatisfactory" performance.

Overall, he said, "the full spectrum of hostility towards some of the world's most vulnerable people is really breathtaking and it is really important to have a document like this because it pulls together a range of cruel and nasty measures in conflict with U.S. policy for decades," he said.

"There's not an area of international humanitarian concern that has escaped the kinds of cruel measures that conflict with international humanitarian principals which have been imposed by this administration," Schwartz added. "Nothing prevents this president and administration from charting a new course, but the record to date is pretty awful."

U.S. News & World Report: U.S. Refugee Policies Are Failing, Group Says

An advocacy group says the Trump administration's humanitarian policies are falling short both inside the country and around the world.

The United States and other countries continue to face enormous humanitarian challenges in a world with more than 70 million refugees and internally displaced people. Yet the administration of President Donald Trump is doing worse at handling refugees and providing humanitarian protection than last year, according to an independent refugee advocacy organization.

A new report put together by Refugees International shows the U.S. is still falling short when it comes to refugee responsibility and humanitarian policies. The 2019 annual paper released on Monday gave the U.S. an F, or a failing grade overall. The organization gave the U.S. a failing grade last year, the first year the organization produced the assessment, but the country's policies have deteriorated in the past year, the report says.

The current administration also received an F for all internal and several overseas measures related to refugees, as it is undermining the U.S. law and longstanding U.S. humanitarian policy "through cruel practices toward families seeking asylum, weakening the U.S. asylum process, and crippling the U.S. Refugee Admissions program," say the authors of the report

Among other findings in the report:

  • Overseas, the Trump administration continued restricting life-saving humanitarian aid, including aid to refugee women and girls. It also failed to lead efforts to put an end to "conflicts inflicting humanitarian suffering, and separated the U.S. from broad-based global efforts to improve global responses on migration and refugees."

  • Overall, the U.S. engaged in "systematic efforts to effectively end asylum for large numbers of credible claimants at the U.S. southern border." It also rejected "international compacts on enhanced protection and management of migrants and refugees endorsed by an overwhelming majority of other governments," say the authors of the report.

  • The current administration is failing to display leadership on efforts meant to recognize and respond to massive human rights violations and forced migrations in countries such as Myanmar.

  • The U.S. also is falling short in providing humanitarian leadership in several countries torn by conflict, say the authors of the report. In Syria, the Trump administration policies lack coherence. South Sudan and northern Nigeria are receiving little attention, while in Yemen the U.S. administration is not applying enough pressure on the Saudi-led coalition to end abuses against those harmed by the military.

The effects of these policies are "rippling around the world," the report states, because of the influence U.S. policies have on other countries. "The president's anti-refugee and anti-asylum rhetoric has been adopted and amplified by other politicians around the world," say the report's authors.

This piece originally appeared here.

UN Dispatch Podcast: The Trump Administration’s Assault on Refugees and Asylum Seekers Enters a New Phase

Since taking office the Trump administration has taken unprecedented steps to sharply reduce both the number of refugees who are resettled in the United States and also the number of people who can claim asylum.

This has included significantly lowering what is known as the “ceiling” on refugee admissions to the smallest number ever and placing onerous restrictions on exactly who can be admitted as a refugee. Meanwhile, the administration is implementing several policies of dubious legality that would effectively make it impossible for people entering the southern US border to claim asylum.

The Trump administration’s restrictive policies toward refugees and asylum seekers are reaching a new phase.

In this episode one of the world’s leading experts on refugee and asylum policies is on the line to both discuss the mechanics of what the Trump administration is doing.

Eric Schwartz is the president of Refugees International and also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration in the Obama administration. He has deep experience working on humanitarian and refugee issues, which he summons in our conversation to help put this administration’s assault on refugees and asylum seekers in context.

We also discuss the very real global implications of the fact that the United States can not be meaningfully relied on to advocate for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers around the world.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn the implications of the Trump administration’s increasingly hostile approach to refugees and asylum, have a listen.

Univision: Victims of Human Trafficking are Being Denied Visas at a Higher Rate

A new report found that visas for victims of human trafficking are currently being denied at higher rates than in previous years. The report released by Refugees International found that the denial rate between February 2017 and April 2019 was almost 50 percent. Yael Schacher, one of the author’s and senior U.S. advocate for the group spoke to UNews.

Univision: Trump’s Agreement with Mexico to Avoid Tariffs Might Create New Challenges

President Trump claims one of the main points of the agreement reached with Mexico to avoid tariffs on imported goods is an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed in the United States. Critics say that could be a problem because it forces migrants to wait indefinitely in unsafe conditions. Dr. Yael Schacher is one of those critics, and she spoke to UNews.

Refugee Fatigue?

The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide increased by more than 2 million in 2018 reaching a record 70.8 million, according to the UNHCR. The world took notice of the plight of refugees after Syrians began streaming into Europe in 2015. But while refugees are no longer appearing in the headlines, their plight endures. Are the global powers taking notice? What can they do to lessen the load on developing nations? Guests: Eric Schwartz- President of Refugees International and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Chris Boian- Spokesperson for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency Samuel Witten- Acting Asst. Secretary of State, Population Refugees & Migration (2007-2009) and former State Department deputy Legal Advisor

What’s The Future For The Rohingya?

The abuse of Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar continues, with hundreds more fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh in recent months.

There, they join the world's largest refugee camp of around a million other Rohingyas who fled a co-ordinated campaign of violence designed to drive them out of mostly Buddhist Myanmar.

But what will happen to these displaced people long term? Myanmar has claimed they would be able to return, but it’s clear that remains impossible.

The aid agency Refugees International says the most recent arrivals to Bangladesh paint a bleak picture of life in Myanmar for remaining Rohingyas.

Listen here.

WNYC's The Takeaway | Bangladesh Plans to Relocate 100,000 Rohingya to Cyclone-Prone Island

Since 2016, over 1 million Rohingya Muslims have fled ethnic cleansing by Myanmar's military and taken refuge in Bangladesh, which has one of the highest population densities in the world.

Following the Foreign Minister’s announcement that it could no longer accept Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh has completed some construction as part of a plan to relocate 100,000 refugees to a remote, monsoon-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.

The island's name, Bhasan Char, means "floating island". Rohingya activists have criticized the decision, saying that they didn't get a chance to weigh in.

Daniel Sullivan, senior advocate for human rights at Refugees International, gives an update on the situation in Myanmar, and then discusses Bangladesh’s refugee relocation plan.

Talk Media News: Cooperation is key to preventing the Venezuelan refugee crisis from getting worse, new report says

The U.N. estimates that 2019 could see the exodus of some 2.1 million Venezuelans, adding to the 3.3 million who have already fled political and economic turmoil under President Nicolás Maduro.

If those projections hold true, neighboring Colombia will likely receive the lion’s share of refugees, solidifying the country’s role at the front line of the crisis.

Eric Schwartz is the president of Refugees International, and commends Colombia for keeping its borders open and allowing those fleeing Venezuela to access basic services.

“In an awful situation, Colombia is standing up and doing pretty much the right thing.”

But Refugees International warns in a new report that that could change if Colombia fails to get more international support.

Remember, 7 million Colombians remain internally displaced by fighting between the government and FARC rebels. And even though the two sides signed a peace deal in 2017, Colombia has a long way to go to help those whose livelihoods were destroyed by decades of war.

If the Venezuelan refugee issue distracts from that effort, attitudes toward refugees could change.

“In any situation where there are large numbers of people fleeing and trying to seek refuge, there are challenges with respect to host communities, and I think the government of Colombia could very much use the financial support of the international community in addressing what some of those host community concerns might be.”

To do that, Schwartz suggests those donating to the refugee response also could help Colombia ensure its domestic peace process is successful.

And crucially, Colombia can’t be left to deal with the refugee crisis by itself, lest a go-it-alone approach to migration prevail.

“We know what the worst case looks like. All you have to do is look in other parts of the world where governments are shutting borders. It means that people who are at risk suffer much more significantly, that more people die and that governments use hate-filled rhetoric to stoke polarization.”

Talk Media News: Unfazed by US boycott, 160+ countries back global migration compact

Some 164 countries signed on to a non-binding Global Compact for Migration this week, enshrining some commonly accepted migration policies that are likely to come in handy as ever greater numbers of people leave their home countries behind in search of a better life.

“What we ultimately got out of the text is a floor, not a ceiling.”

Alice Thomas is a program manager for Refugees International.

“It’s the first time you have in one document a 360-degree view of migration and a set of best practices for states working collaboratively to achieve safer, regular, orderly migration.”

Some of the compact’s 23 goals include ending “migration detention unless as a last resort,” eliminating discrimination against migrants and stopping the “allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance.”

While the compact is clearly and purposefully non-binding, the U.S. boycotted it anyway, and perhaps that’s no surprise. The U.S. has been widely criticized for detaining migrants (even going as far as to separate migrant children from their parents) and President Trump himself has repeatedly turned public sentiment against migrants, even peddling the debunked theory that they pose health risks to the U.S.

Non-binding or not, Thomas hopes one of the compact’s goals to collect more data on migration will ultimately help countries with good migration policy to stand out from the pack.

“To say that best practices are going to drive you to do something that’s going to call you out in some fashion – well yeah, maybe it’s going to mean that you’re not following the best practices for migration. But the whole idea that the international community needs to work together to try to deal with this phenomena.”

That cooperation is urgently needed. According to the U.N., the number of international migrants has increased from around 100 million people 30 years ago to more than 250 million now, and that trend shows little signs of stopping.

UN Dispatch Podcast: Global Compact for Migration, Explained

Over 180 countries are endorsing what is known as the Global Compact for Migration. The text of this non-binding agreement was finalized over the summer, and countries are meeting in Marrakech, Morocco on December 10th and 11th to formally launch the Compact.

There is a great deal of misinformation being spread, mostly by right wing governments in Europe in the US, about what this agreement entails.

This agreement is not a treaty. Rather, it is an agreed set of principles and creates a kind of platform for multilateral and bilateral cooperation around issues of international migration.

On the line to explain the Global Compact for Migration, better known around the UN as the “GCM” is Alice Thomas of Refugees International.  I caught up with Alice Thomas from Marrakech where she was participating in civil society forums around the Compact. We discuss both the content of the Compact and its potential impact on destination countries, origin countries and migrants themselves. We also discuss the impact of the non-participation of a few countries in this compact, including the United States and some countries in Europe.

If you have 20 minutes and want to a primer on the Global Compact For Migration, have a listen –>


NPR: Trump Escalates Immigration Issue Days Ahead Of Elections With White House Remarks

Trump promised to crack down on what he called the abuse of the asylum process and delivered a stern warning to a group of Central American migrants slowly making their way through Mexico, who have set their sights on the United States.

"The president has willfully and cynically vilified an asylum-seeker population composed of vulnerable children, women, and men," said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International.

Read the full story here.

NPR: White House To Cap The Number Of Refugees Allowed Into The U.S.

The Trump administration slashed the number of refugees it will permit into the United States next year by 30 percent. The new ceiling is 30,000 — that's 15,000 fewer than this year.

RI President Eric Schwartz joins NPR’s Morning Edition to discuss refugees in the United States.