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IRC head: Gulf countries must do more for Syrian refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 22, 2015

Syrian_refugees

David Miliband the chief executive of the International Rescue Committee is calling on Arabian Gulf states to begin accepting Syrian refugees for resettlement. The UN has said 130,000 Syrians need to be resettled every year outside of the country. Miliband said there needs to be fair allocation among countries and that so far Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan that are bearing the brunt of refugees. I suspect he’s also referring to countries outside the region that have accepted Syrians for resettlement, although far short of the 120,000 per year. Countried accepting Syrian refugees include: Bulgaria 5000, Germany 18,000, Sweden 14,700 [U.S. News & World Report], and the US goal through fy2016 is 10,000. An article in the UAE’s The National explains:

DUBAI // A former British foreign minister has called on Arabian Gulf states to lead the world and take in Syrian refugees fleeing the country.

David Miliband, who is now chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, a charity committed to helping the most vulnerable, said the West had so far been poor at setting a good example on this front so there is a chance for Gulf countries to show their humanitarian prowess.

The world beyond Syria needs to take its fair share of people leaving the country,” he said in an interview with The National. “Western countries have not been good at this so far.

One of the things the Gulf could do is make a point here. The UN has said 130,000 Syrians need to be resettled every year outside of the country.

That needs a fair allocation. At the moment that isn’t happening and, symbolically, that is damaging.

It is very important that there remains an openness in the Gulf to help people who are trying to escape from their suffering. It can’t just be Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan that are bearing the brunt of refugees.”…

Mr Miliband was speaking ahead of a meeting in the UAE to encourage further financial support to help the relief effort for displaced Syrians…

The UN has said 250,000 people in besieged parts of Syria are completely cut off from aid, and six million are in need of humanitarian help…

The UAE has the chance to be a leader in the humanitarian field in this area,” he said…

The opportunity for the UAE, the state and the public, is to now make a difference. The needs are much greater than the traditional international system can meet.

Different parts of the Gulf have made their financial contributions but, overall, it has to rise, and also [increase] from the West.”

Mr Miliband said it is important that Gulf countries play a central role in the politics of Syria, as it is in their own interest… Read more here

Posted in IRC, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 18, 2015

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A refugee program, called the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program, or CAM, is a new immigration initiative that aims to prevent minors from risking their lives to cross the border illegally, as thousands have done over the past few years. Most were from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, nations plagued by high murder rates, drug trafficking, and human smuggling. Under the new program minors facing persecution back home may qualify for refugee status, putting them on a path to a green card, resettlement aid, and eventual US citizenship. Minors who do not meet the strict legal standard for a refugee, but are still at risk, will be considered for “parole,” an immigration status that lets them come to the US but does not offer the other benefits. The program aims to create a legal process for these minors to immigrate, and to curb the growing influence of human traffickers. An article in the Boston Globe explains the details of the program:

Federal officials are rolling out a new refugee program that could reunite thousands of children facing danger in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador with their immigrant parents in the United States.

Officials announced the program with little fanfare in November, and it has taken time for the word to spread. Thousands of immigrants who have had temporary legal status for many years could be eligible to apply for the first time to bring their children to America.

The program could expand if President Obama wins a court battle over separate initiatives to grant deportation reprieves to millions more. Those initiatives suffered a setback Monday when a federal judge imposed a temporary injunction on the programs…

…officials say the new program aims to prevent children from risking their lives to cross the border illegally, as thousands did last summer.

We’ve established this program, frankly, it’s two-fold, to prevent children from taking this journey and to prevent the exploitation of their families by traffickers,” said Lawrence Bartlett, director of refugee admissions at the State Department, which is running the program with Homeland Security. “We think the smuggling networks are fairly robust and it’s to really guard against that and to really protect these kids.”

Under the new program, which started Dec. 1, children facing persecution back home may qualify for refugee status, putting them on a path to a green card, resettlement aid, and later, US citizenship. Children who fall short of the strict legal standard for a refugee, but are still at risk, will be considered for “parole,” an immigration status that lets them come to America but does not provide the other benefits.

In some cases, federal officials said, the spouses and grandchildren of immigrants with temporary status could be considered for admission if they face harm, though the program primarily is for unmarried children under 21…

The refugee program, called the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program, or CAM, is one of a battery of controversial new immigration initiatives the White House unveiled in recent months after the House refused to take up a bill on illegal immigration…

The number of minors taken into federal custody after crossing the border has roughly doubled each of the last two years — from 13,625 to 24,688, and to 57,496 last fiscal year, according to the Administration for Children and Families, which processes the children.

Most were from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, nations plagued by high murder rates, drug trafficking, and human smuggling. And most were released to parents or sponsors in the United States, including 1,500 children in Massachusetts from October 2013 through the end of last year…

Vice President Joe Biden announced the refugee program at a summit of Central American presidents in Washington on Nov. 14 — and federal officials say it is part of a broader multimillion-dollar effort to stem violence and human smuggling in the region. There is no end date, although it will be evaluated every year.

Under the rules, parents from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras can apply for the refugee program if they have lawful status, which includes immigrants — such as Montiel — who have Temporary Protected Status, a status granted to tens of thousands of Hondurans and Salvadorans whose homelands were engulfed in natural disasters…

The refugee application is free, but parents can only apply for their children through nearly 350 approved refugee resettlement agencies, such as Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Service, or Ascentria Care Alliance, formerly known as Lutheran Social Services of New England.

After parents apply, children will undergo interviews with US Citizenship and Immigration officers in their homelands to ascertain whether they qualify as refugees — those who fear persecution because of race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or because they are in a particular group, such as gay people.

Children also must undergo DNA testing to prove their relationship to their parents.

Federal officials declined to estimate how many parents are expected to apply… Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, el salvadoran, gangs, Guatemalan, honduran, Obama administration, safety, teens, TPS (Temporary Protected Status), unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

US to take in 1,000 to 2,000 Syrian refugees this year

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 28, 2015

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The US is set to take in 1,000 to 2,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year. The goal through fy2016 is 10,000. Only 323 Syrians were resettled in the U.S. in 2014, 36 in 2013, but Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the State Department said the United Nations only recently has sought to resettle larger numbers. An article in USAtoday about refugees in Kentucky has the details:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Twenty-one Syrian refugees will arrive here in the next two weeks, a figure expected to increase as the U.S. begins to take in an expanded number of refugees fleeing Syria’s bloody civil war.

The refugees, from four families who fled to Jordan and Egypt, are part of a larger U.S. resettlement effort expected to bring as many as 10,000 Syrians to cities across the USA through fiscal year 2016 alone, according to the U.S. State Department…

he United States has accepted few Syrian refugees in recent years, sparking criticism that it was slow to respond. But Bartlett said the United Nations only recently has sought to resettle larger numbers. The State Department is now reviewing nearly 10,000 referrals from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

By contrast, 323 Syrians were resettled in the U.S. in 2014, 36 in 2013.

The U.N. is asking an array of nations to take in 100,000 refugees through 2016, Bartlett said, and the U.S. will be a significant player.

Although private resettlement agencies will determine where they go, last year some arrived in California, Illinois and Texas. [Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the State Department] predicted resettlements would reach 1,000 to 2,000 through this fiscal year and grow more quickly in the subsequent 12 months.

While no ceiling on Syrians has been set, the U.S. has a cap of 70,000 total global refugees a year… Read more here

Posted in Kentucky, State Department, Syrian, UN | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

World Food Program for now resumes food assistance to Syrian refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 3, 2015

government-helping-citizen-water-food-stock-supplyAlthough this blog mainly covers the US domestic refugee resettlement program, we occasionally cover related issues. Of extreme urgency in recent months has been food aid to Syrian refugees. In December the World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to cut all food assistance to 1.7 million Syrian refugees due to a shortage of funds. After a 72-hour fund raising campaign involving an unprecedented social media campaign the WFP was able to resume assistance about a week later. Top donors included: Qatar (US$2 million), Saudi Arabia (US$52 million), Belgium (US$138,000),  European Union (US$6.2 million), Germany (US$5.4 million), Ireland (US$1.1 million), Netherlands (US$7.5 million), Norway (US$10.2 million), and Switzerland (US$2.1 million), plus US$1.8 million from individuals and private sector donors. Anyone wishing to donate can use the link on the WFP Syria Emergency web page. The funds were said to cover the month of December, so ongoing donations are desperately needed. They need US$1.5 billion in 2015 to feed over 6.5 million Syrians displaced inside their country and sheltering in neighboring countries. About 3 million Syrian refugees are now registered in neighboring countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey), with the WFP assisting more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees in these countries. Inside Syria WFP is also managing to provide food assistance to around 4 million people every month.

Posted in Syrian, UNHCR | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Conservative Canadian government deemphasizes need and vulnerability in pushing Syrian Muslims to the bottom of the list

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 18, 2014

List-512The conservative-led Canadian federal government has announced that it will be “prioritizing” ethnic and religious minorities while resettling refugees from Syria. Apparently Muslim Syrian refugees will be pushed to the bottom or off the list entirely of refugees to be resettled. The troubling move is being condemned by Canadian Muslim and non-Muslim religious leaders. If adopted, it will contradict with the United Nation policies that include helping “the most vulnerable, no matter their religious back ground”. According to the UN policies, families led by women, torture victims and those with serious medical conditions must be resettled. An article at OnIslam.net explains the issue:

OTTAWA – Reports that Canadian government will be prioritizing religious minorities while resettling Syrian refugees has triggered a fierce criticism, accusing it of abandoning thousands of vulnerable Muslim refugees.

“We are deeply troubled by this report and we hope the federal government can provide answers,” Ihsaan Gardee, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) executive director, said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net on Friday, December 12.

“It is inconceivable that our government would suggest implementing a policy that creates a two-tier refugee system in which vulnerable people are assessed based on their personal religious beliefs rather than on their needs.”

Gardee’s comments followed reports that Canada is set to accept more Syrian refugees “only from the religious minorities”.

The new refugees’ trend, if adopted, will contradict with the United Nation policies that include helping “the most vulnerable, no matter their religious back ground”.

Families led by women, torture victims and those with serious medical conditions must be resettled, according to the UN policies.

Although Canada has previously accepted to resettle 1,300 Syrian refugees, only 457 had arrived by mid-November, according to statistics tabled in the House of Commons…

Religious minorities make up an important and vibrant part of Syria’s culture, “and no one is suggesting that non-Muslims should not be protected,” Syrian Canadian Council spokesman Faisal Alazem stated.

“But you treat people based on the need and on the vulnerability…

Critics of the new policies blamed the conservative government for “breaking form the international community”, blowing away the traditions of the European country.

“It’s unprecedented and going in a terrible direction,” agreed Liberal immigration critic John McCallum.

“I find this shocking. To impose a religious filter is just not right.”

A similar criticism was shared by Canadian non-Muslim religious leaders.

“All of our religions teach the fundamental worth of every human being,” reads a forthcoming statement which has already been signed by several concerned faith groups and organizations including the United Church, the Presbyterian World Service and Development, and the Jewish Refugee Action Network.

“A person should never be excluded from refugee protection or resettlement on the basis of his or her religion. Refugees must be selected for resettlement based on need.”… Read more here

Posted in Canadian refugee resettlement pgrm, Islamic, right-wing, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

US to accept only 9000 of Syria’s 3.8 Mil. Refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 14, 2014

BBC graphic, December 7, 2014

Counties around the world have so far agreed to accept 66,254 of Syria’s 3.8 million displaced refugees. Of those, the US says it is reviewing only 9000 resettlement applications, and has taken in only 300 refugees so far. In Europe, only Germany and Sweden have responded in a significant way. Neither the wealthy gulf states nor China and Russia, self-described world leaders who have fueled the conflict through support for Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, have agreed to accept a single refugee. An article and an editorial in the New York Times explain the details:

GENEVA — The United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday that the number of Syrian refugees accepted for resettlement in third countries would more than double as a result of commitments given by governments at a “pledging conference” in Geneva. The agency’s tally, however, still fell well short of its own target and even further behind its estimate of those who need resettlement. António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said after the meeting that he was “very happy” with the outcome of the conference in which 28 countries made firm commitments to accept 66,254 Syrian refugees and 11 other countries said they were exploring options or preparing to expand existing programs. That brings the refugee agency’s estimate of the total number of resettlement places being offered to more than 100,000. Mr. Guterres said countries so far had offered only 40,000 places for Syrians this year, adding, “we are confident we have clearly more than doubled” the number of resettlement places available… The refugee agency has called on countries to accept 130,000 Syrians in 2015 and 2016, and Mr. Guterres said that more than 300,000 Syrians had to be resettled for health or other reasons. Some of them are ill or have experienced trauma in the conflict. Others cannot return in safety to Syria, even when the civil war ends… The United States and Canada have taken in around 5,350 Syrian refugees, but Assistant Secretary of State Anne C. Richard told the gathering that America was considering around 9,000 resettlement applications and receiving around 1,000 new cases a month… Read more here

A New York Times editorial has more:

The international community is expected to offer shelter and support to more than 100,000 additional Syrian refugees, who have been forced from their homes by their country’s bloody civil war. That is progress — but it is not nearly enough when measured against the enormous need and the fact that some of the world’s wealthiest countries are still turning their backs on this humanitarian disaster. Since the start of the conflict in 2011, fewer than 191,000 Syrians have been accepted for resettlement in countries outside the region. At a conference in Geneva last week, the United Nations refugee agency said 28 countries had made firm commitments to accept 66,254 Syrian refugees, and 11 other countries were preparing to expand existing programs or were considering expanding them, bringing total new resettlement slots to above 100,000. The agency’s goal was to have countries accept 130,000 additional Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016, and international aid agencies had pushed for an even higher total, 180,000 or more… Clearly, more countries need to step up and share this load. Many have refused to take in a single refugee, thus failing any reasonable test of international citizenship and basic compassion. They include China and Russia and wealthy Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The refusal of China and Russia to reach out is especially galling, since they consider themselves world leaders and have fueled the conflict through resolute support for Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. The Gulf states have also played a role by backing various militant groups in the war… Even in Europe, which has more of a tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing conflict, only Germany and Sweden have responded in a generous way. Other European countries — Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal — have fallen far short. The United States, the biggest donor of humanitarian aid to alleviate the Syrian crisis at $3 billion, has taken in only 300 Syrian refugees so far. Anne Richard, a senior State Department official, told the conference last week that the government is reviewing the applications of 9,000 Syrians referred by the United Nations agency and expects “admissions from Syria to surge in 2015 and beyond.”… Read more here

Posted in State Department, Syrian, UNHCR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama administration declares Central American minors priority for deportation; lawyers scramble

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 27, 2014

FASTPresident Obama’s immigration executive order which includes among other things setting up a program to allow 4000 minors into the country annually from Central America is in marked contrast to his administration’s declaration this past summer that puts similar minors who entered the country illegally on a fast track to deportation. Immigration courts have established accelerated dockets to speed up the process, and lawyers are scrambling to prepare complicated cases in a short amount of time. Although most of the minors requesting asylum report fleeing gang-related violence, immigration courts historically have been reluctant to offer protection on those grounds. An article at Minnesota Public Radio News explains the situation:

Lawyers across the nation are scrambling to piece together how President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration will affect their clients.

But so far, not much has changed for Central American minors who fled their home countries for the United States, said Laura Wilson, a Minneapolis attorney who represents four children.
Wilson’s clients were placed by immigration officials with family members in Minnesota. She is trying to gather their stories about the violence that drove them across the border, bolster them with expert opinions and bring them to a federal immigration hearing.

And she has just a few weeks to do it.

Although the president’s order could defer the deportation of millions of immigrants, it won’t help more than 200 children in Minnesota on a “fast-track” docket federal authorities established for immigrant children. That gives attorneys little time to prepare a case.

For Wilson, who works for Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and dozens of other lawyers in the state, that means the frantic pace of interviews, affidavits and legal research will continue.

Tight deadlines complicate work

The number of children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has surged from about 4,000 in fiscal year 2011 to more than five times that number in fiscal year 2013, according to a report from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

That influx has swamped immigration courts across the country. The Obama administration this summer declared the children a priority for deportation, and courts established accelerated dockets to speed up the process… Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Time running out for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Applications

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 20, 2014

Racing Against Deadline Clock Time CountdownDecember 31, 2014 is the deadline for Afghan SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas). That date is also the deadline by which the visa may be issued according to current law. Processing time can vary, with the US State Department claiming the current average processing time for an SIV in Afghanistan is about 13 months, but with most taking up to five years according to Ron Black, director of the resettlement agency College of Southern Idaho’s refugee program. An article in the Twin Falls Times-News has the details of the issue:

TWIN FALLS | Time might be running out for thousands of Afghans who risked their lives in the U.S.-led War on Terror.
As American forces continue to pull out of Afghanistan, some 5,000 Afghan translators under Taliban threat are competing for a few thousand Special Immigration Visas (SIVs), the New York Times reported in March.

On Aug. 8, President Barack Obama signed the Emergency Afghan Allies Extension Act of 2014, which authorized another 1,000 visas for Afghan principal applicants.

If the special visa program expires at the end of December, it will be nearly impossible for them to come to America through other visas, a State Department official told the Times-News.

“Although the deadline to apply… is December 31, 2014, the current law provides that no SIVs may be issued under this program after that date,” says a State Department online fact sheet. “We welcome action by Congress to extend this program.”

According to the fact sheet, processing time can vary depending on a number of factors. “The current average processing time for an SIV in Afghanistan is approximately 13 months.”

But most have taken much longer, said Ron Black, outgoing director of the College of Southern Idaho’s refugee program. “Up to five years.”…

The biggest difficulty in issuing a visa is establishing the applicant’s identity, Black said. “These SIV applicants use assumed names for their own safety.”

Many use the name “FNU” — which stands for “first name unknown,” he said. The refugees “need identification, and nothing matches.

“Once they get a visa, they must leave immediately,” Black said. “But they still need an exit permit, and that can be cancelled at the last minute. So the process can drag on and on.”… Read more here

Posted in Afghan, College of Southern Idaho, SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) immigrants, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. to grant refugee status to Central American minors abroad

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 19, 2014

BorderGuardThe federal government will launch a program in December to grant refugee status to Central American minor children back home of parents who live legally in the US. The program does not apply to minors who have arrived in the U.S. illegally. The program is part of a plan to stem illegal child migration from their countries which culminated in “the surge” of the past two years. The quota for the plan is 4000 children per year. An article at Bismarck, North Dakota’s CBC KXNews has the details:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. government will launch a program in December to grant refugee status to some people under the age of 21 who live in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and whose parents legally reside in the United States.

U.S. officials say parents can ask authorities free of charge for refugee status for their children in the Central American countries, which are plagued by poverty and vicious gang violence. The program does not apply to minors who have arrived in the U.S. illegally.

Vice President Joe Biden announced the program Friday at the Inter-American Development Bank, where the presidents of the three Central American countries will present a plan to stem child migration from their countries.

U.S. officials said that children deemed refugees will be able to work immediately upon arrival in the U.S., opt for permanent residency the following year and for naturalization five years later. They did not say how long the process of receiving refugee status will take.

Central American children who meet the requirements will be part of a quota of 4,000 people from Latin America receiving refugee status each fiscal year, officials said. The U.S. quota of Latin America refugees currently consists of Cubans and Colombians.

Applicants who don’t meet the requirements will be evaluated to see if they can be admitted conditionally under a non-permanent migratory status that allows them to work temporarily in the U.S…

The program aims to be a legal and safe alternative to the long and dangerous journey some Central American children take north to reach the U.S. and to reunite with their parents in the U.S. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied child and teenage migrants showed up at the U.S. border earlier this year… Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, Obama administration, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Border Patrol youth detention centers – freezing, dank & dirty clothes, little food or exercise

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 7, 2014

detentionA social worker who couldn’t take any more explains in a new article the conditions in the Border Patrol detention centers where the wave of Central American youth known as “the surge” are kept before being sent on to ORR shelters. Conditions include bright lights, constant blasting AC, little food and rare exercise. Youth are processed in without showers or clean clothes and remain for long periods in the dank and dirty clothes they trekked hundreds of miles in. An article in the Washington Post by a social worker describes these detention centers:

About 70,000 immigrant kids will show up alone at the U.S. border this year. According to Mother Jones, that’s a 59 percent increase from 2013, a 142 percent jump from 2011.

These children are fleeing instability, unrest and danger in their home countries (according to one study, 58 percent of the young people “had suffered, been threatened, or feared serious harm”). As Wendy Young, executive director of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), told Mother Jones:

“This is becoming less like an immigration issue and much more like a refugee issue. … Because this really is a forced migration. This is not kids choosing voluntarily to leave…”

[in detention centers in Texas] Kids were crammed into rooms under bright lights and were forced to wait.

Kids…called the detention center “la hielera,” or “the icebox,” because of the blasting air conditioning in the arctic-chilled cells. Some children were left there for weeks; they described the smell of their own festering feet and urine that filled the spaces.

In Texas, an officer had told [one boy] to put his face against the cold wall and to empty his pockets. Sometimes kids bring money with them. He pocketed the kid’s $10.

They were processed into jail with the dank clothes they traveled in, were not always showered, were provided with little food and little nutrition, and not always permitted physical exercise… Read more here

Posted in asylees, Border Patrol, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, ORR, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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