Today's announcement that the Trump Administration has reached a “safe third country” agreement with Guatemala is very alarming. As Refugees International has previously stated, Guatemala is in no way safe for refugees and asylum seekers, and all the strong-arming in the world won’t make it so.
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.
In a particularly egregious violation of law and common decency, the Trump White House is pressing U.S. diplomats to negotiate a “safe third country agreement” with Guatemala. If implemented, it will put the lives of thousands of Central Americans at great risk. Alarmed, Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, took the unusual step of writing a letter to the State Department’s top acting lawyer, urging he and his office cease involvement in efforts to secure the agreement.
Refugees International President Eric Schwartz comments on the tragic image of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria from El Salvador whose deaths are the inevitable result of inhumane and unconscionable policies that prevent people from seeking asylum in safety and dignity.
In a video message, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz shares thoughts on the tragic image of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria from El Salvador whose deaths are the inevitable result of policies that prevent people from seeking asylum in safety and dignity.
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
In remarks at Saint John’s Church, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz explains that for many tens of thousands of Central Americans—and even hundreds of thousands—forced migration is fueled by well-founded fears of women, men, and children about serious and striking abuses of their human rights.
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.”