In remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz offers some perspectives on the migrant caravan and on questions relating to asylum.
On July 19, 1979, thirty-nine years ago, Refugees International undertook its first large-scale public advocacy effort on behalf of refugees. On that date, then-executive director Diane Lawson, along with one of RI’s founders Michael Morrissey, published a full-page ad in the Washington Post. Addressed to U.S. senators and representatives, the advocacy letter called for increased support for Indochinese refugees and set the course for our organization’s decades-long commitment to advocating for lifesaving action.
The only response to World Refugee Day 2017 is urgent action, as we face proposed Trump administration funding cuts of 32 percent to the international affairs budget. Such drastic slashes to humanitarian and development assistance as well as peacekeeping and international organizations at this time of unprecedented global need is incomprehensible. Should these cuts be implemented, the impacts on the most vulnerable populations will be devastating and, unfortunately, deadly.
Beginning in the summer of 2013, unusually high numbers of children, both on their own and with their mothers, crossed the southern border of the United States. The numbers increased again last fall, with some 21,500 family units apprehended at the U.S. border between October and December 2015 — almost three times as many as the same period the year before. While there has been much debate about the cause of this surge, pervasive violence in the countries of origin is a major factor. Refugees International has reported on the extreme violence and lack of protection that drives many such persons to risk this often dangerous and uncertain journey to the U.S
From the massive migration of an estimated 70,000 unaccompanied children to the U.S. border this past summer to President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration reform, issues facing Central America have entered the national spotlight here in the US. The underlying internal displacement trends within Central America have not received as much attention, but are perhaps even more important as they reveal a frightening relationship between gang violence and forced migration within Central America.
With so many humanitarian crises around the world, priority humanitarian and peacekeeping accounts need increased support from Congress now more than ever. This includes the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) and the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) humanitarian accounts, along with the core peacekeeping accounts including Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) and Contributions for International Peacekeeping (CIPA).
“Afghanistan is not hopeless.”
So said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) in a recent speech at the US Institute of Peace. Cotton, elected to the Senate last year after one term in the House of Representatives, is a former U.S. Army officer. He served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division and in 2008-9 with a U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. Now a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Cotton is working to convince the president and his colleagues of the importance of continued U.S. and international engagement in support of the security, development, and humanitarian needs of the Afghan people.
South Sudan is continuing to reel from internal conflict that ignited in the capital Juba a little more than a year ago and quickly spread throughout the country. On December 15th, 2013, fighting erupted in Juba between soldiers loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar and those loyal to President Salva Kiir. More than one year on the fighting continues, primarily in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states in the north.