In the News

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.

VOA’s Nightline Africa ft. Alexandra Lamarche

Peter Clottey, host of VOA’s Nightline Africa, interviews Refugees International advocate for sub-Saharan Africa Alexandra Lamarche about her recent research on the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic.

Listen to the full interview here.

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.

The Takeaway: UN Report Accuses Myanmar Military of Genocide

new report from the United Nations says six of Myanmar’s top generals should be tried for genocide and other crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court.

The report comes one year after the Myanmar military systematically forced more than 700,000 people from the Rohingya Muslim minority from their homes and villages across the border into Bangladesh. At least 10,000 Rohingya were killed in a targeted campaign of genocide, the UN experts say -- adding that 10,000 is a conservative estimate.

Daniel Sullivan, senior advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International, visited and interviewed Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh earlier this year and recently wrote an article called "Five Key Priorities To Address the Rohingya Crisis."

PBS Newshour: Amid ‘mounting evidence of atrocities,’ UN calls for investigation into Rohingya crackdown

The U.N. is calling for an investigation into Myanmar’s violent crackdown last year against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. But Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are finally receiving aid, and despite repatriation discussions, many are reluctant to return to the people who brutalized them. Nick Schifrin talks to special correspondent Tania Rashid and Refugees International's Dan Sullivan.


All Things Considered: U.N. Human Rights Probe; Top Myanmar Generals Should Face Genocide Charges

A United Nations-mandated Fact-Finding Mission issued a scathing report documenting Myanmar security forces' violence against the country's ethnic Rohingya Muslim population last year.

RI’s Daniel Sullivan joins NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.