Right to Refuge


With the election of Donald Trump as the new US president many people are concerned the US will shut its borders to refugees from predominately Muslim countries and fear the US may reduce its financial support to the international refugee crisis.  This fear comes from Trump’s Campaign rhetoric where he scapegoated Muslim refugees and Muslims in general as causing terrorism, even though US terrorist acts since 9/11 are more likely to happen from white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.

According to NPR,

“During the campaign, Trump said he planned to suspend the Syrian refugee program, and threatened to deport those already here. At a rally in New Hampshire last year, he told a cheering crowd, “I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of a mass migration, that if I win, they are going back.”

And what once existed as bipartisan support for refugee resettlement, unraveled after last November’s Paris terrorist attacks, when early reporting erroneously identified one of the attackers as a Syrian refugee. Support further declined following last December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., and a mass shooting in June at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Refugees had no role in these attacks, but GOP lawmakers began to call for a pause in resettlement and so did a majority of U.S. governors. Trump’s hard-line campaign rhetoric, specifically against Syrians, resonated with a fearful GOP’s voting base. Now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House, refugee advocates fear there will be severe funding cuts for their work.”

Trump has also used campaign rhetoric falsely claiming that the 21-step vetting process, through 3 different agencies, that refugees have to go through to come to the  U.S., isn’t a thorough vetting process only serving to increase fear among his conservative base.

As we enter the Trump presidency, during the largest international refugee crisis since World War II, its important that we understand the severity of the international refugee crisis so we can effectively advocate for refugee rights.

The International Refugee Crisis

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people around the world, as of December, 2015, has topped 65 million.  It’s the first time in the organization’s history the number has surpassed 60 million — and represents a nearly 10 percent increase over last year’s total, of 59.5 million.  Again, this is the highest since World War II.

According to the BBC,

“Conflicts in Syria, central Africa and South Sudan fuelled the sharp increase… Of particular concern are the estimated 6.3 million people who have been refugees for years, sometimes even decades.  People living in what the UN terms “protracted” refugee situations include more than 2.5 million Afghans. Afghanistan still accounts for the largest number of refugees overseen by the UNHCR (the five million Palestinian refugees come under UNRWA).  Neighbouring Pakistan is host to more refugees than any other country, with an estimated 1.6 million.”

A refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country … ”

– The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

According to UNHCR

“A refugee has the right to safe asylum.  However, international protection comprises more than physical safety. Refugees should receive at least the same rights and basic help as any other foreigner who is a legal resident, including freedom of thought, of movement, and freedom from torture and degrading treatment. Economic and social rights are equally applicable. Refugees should have access to medical care, schooling and the right to work.

Countries may not forcibly return (refoulement) refugees to a territory where they face danger or discriminate between groups of refugees. They should ensure that refugees benefit from economic and social rights, at least to the same degree as other foreign residents of the country of asylum. For humanitarian reasons, states should allow a spouse or dependent children to join persons to whom temporary refuge or asylum has been granted. Finally, states have an obligation to cooperate with UNHCR.”

According to the International Justice Resource Center,

“The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention)  establishes the definition of a refugee as well as the principle of non-refoulement and the rights afforded to those granted refugee status.

The 1951 Convention does not define how States parties are to determine whether an individual meets the definition of a refugee. Instead, the establishment of asylum proceedings and refugee status determinations are left to each State party to develop. This has resulted in disparities among different States as governments craft asylum laws based on their different resources, national security concerns, and histories with forced migration movements.”


Poster by: Ricardo Levins Morales–
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Read about the economic impact of refugees

NAE:  From Struggle to Resilience:  The Economic Impact of Refugees in America

Syrian Fight for the Right of Refuge

Although international law protects refugees- individual countries get to decide if someone receives refugee status and if they will allow refugees asylum in their country.

According to Syrianrefugees.eu,

“An estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war in March 2011. Now, in the sixth year of war, 13.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance within the country. Among those escaping the conflict, the majority have sought refuge in neighbouring countries or within Syria itself. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4.8 million have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and 6.6 million are internally displaced within Syria. Meanwhile about one million have requested asylum to Europe. Germany, with more than 300,000 cumulated applications, and Sweden with 100,000, are EU’s top receiving countries. ”



Dangers Syrian Refugees Face on their Journey

Read more about these dangers at:

8 Obstacles Syrian Refugees Must Overcome On Their Way To Europe

  1. Excaping persectuion from ISIS and the Syrian Government while fleeing in Syria
  2. Human trafficking in Turkey
  3. Rough seas and sinking ships while crossing the Mediterranean Sea
  4. Lack of humanitarian support in Greece while waitng for refugee status
  5. Crossing several countries with varying welcoming/hostile views to get to the EU to apply for refugee status in countries that may be less hostile and have more resources to support refugees
    • Hungary’s Conservative government has encouraged violence and racism against the Syrian refugees
  6. Surving human smugglers in Bulgaria
  7. A growing nationalistic, xenophobic, and anti-refugee/anti-immigrant movements has recently made political and social gains throughout the Western world
    1. Britain – Brexit
    2. US – Donald Trump
    3. Austria – far-right Freedom Party (FPOe)

    4. Denmark – Danish People’s Party (DPP)
    5. Finland – Nationalist Finns Party
    6. France – Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN)
    7. Germany – Alternative for Germany (AfD)
    8. Greece – far-right/neo nazi  Golden Dawn party
    9. Hungary – Far-right Jobbik
    10. Italy – Local elections last year delivered big gains to the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration Northern League

    11. Netherlands – anti-EU Party for Freedom (PVV)
    12. Slovakia-ultra-nationalist People’s Party-Our Slovakia of Marian Kotleba

    13. Sweden – The nationalist Sweden Democrats (SD)

    14. Switzerland – Anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party (SVP)

Read more about these parties at BBC: Guide to nationalist parties challenging Europe

Two ways the US can help Syrian Refugees

  1. Support the Syrian Refugees inside Syria
  2. Advocate local governments to give Syrian refugees asylum

Save the Children’s ad attempting to build European support for Syrian refugee,  imagines a young British girl in the same situation as Syria children refugees.

Jarritos Commerical Celebrating US Immigrants