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Jun 25, 2018

Update--Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.

Mother and child crossing the boder
Mother and child crossing the boder

The Executive Order signed is not a solution for families seeking much-needed asylum and does nothing to reunite the thousands of children who have already been separated from their parents. It has continued the disturbing criminalization of asylum, in a break with the very treaty obligations the United States helped craft after WWII.

Those fleeing severe domestic violence, gang-related violence, or other forms of persecution perpetrated by non-state actors in Central America have the legal right to have their asylum cases heard without being criminalized or separated from their children.

The IRC helps unaccompanied minors by overseeing post-release services and providing basic orientation on their rights before referring them to organizations who can directly work on their case.

The IRC has conducted hundreds of home visits on many foster parents to ensure that the home is safe for minors. The IRC does a great deal of training, information sharing, and guiding of sponsors of unaccompanied minors around issues ranging from education, legal assistance, and child welfare laws. The IRC works with unaccompanied minors who are displaced by conflict and disaster around the world, and we are deeply familiar with the impact of toxic stress on small children.

IPD: IRC staff in El Salvador have witnessed first-hand the acute vulnerabilities and protection needs of those who are forced to flee and seek safety in the United States. Families seeking asylum in the U.S. from the Northern Triangle are doing so because they have exhausted all other safe options and are in need of protection. The Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy won’t change that fact.

In response to tremendous levels of violence and critical protection needs, IRC returned to El Salvador last year. The International Rescue Committee works with the government to improve quality of and access programs and services for people in need; the IRC provides emergency cash relief and lifesaving information services to people in El Salvador who have been uprooted by growing violence.

The Administration has systematically denied safety to the world’s most vulnerable—from its retreat from refugee resettlement, ending the safe and legal pathway for Central American minors to apply for protections, to turning its back on asylum seekers at our borders and separating thousands of families. The IRC condemns this retreat from long-standing international protection and humanitarian obligations.

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Mar 27, 2018

Update--Support Refugee Children

When conflict strikes, its children who tend to suffer the most. We at the IRC recognize this, and acknowledge that for a vast majority of youth, school is seen as that safe space to escape the surrounding conflict, and build skills needed to thrive and survive. Today, we wish to share with you the story of Mahmoud, a boy who risked his life to attend school.

For years, Mahmoud, a serious-minded 13-year-old student from the start, made the daily trip to his school in Homs, Syria without hesitation, despite bullets and bombs dropping around him. “I was scared to be killed, but it’s school…I had to go,” he says. “I had no desire to stay in the dark, even if there’s war around me.” It broke Mahmoud’s heart when one of those bombs destroyed his school four years ago. For him, the classroom was a refuge and a challenge.

“It’s the first step in becoming something great,” he says. Mahmoud was fortunate in that both his parents are teachers. They taught him for several months until yet another bomb hit their home. After fleeing from one city to the next, they finally left Syria for Lebanon. “My parents said in Lebanon I could go to school,” he recalls. “I just want to be safe and learn.”

Mahmoud is one of a half-million school-aged Syrian children living in Lebanon. The pressure to educate these youngsters has been immense, but 250,000 of them still have no opportunity to study. Cities and towns lack resources and physical space, even with the government mandating “second shifts” at public schools so Syrian children may attend classes. Mahmoud preferred to enroll in first shift courses, so that he could make friends with Lebanese children and learn how to speak the local dialect.

He had some luck when he was recommended to enroll in supportive classes run by the International Rescue Committee for Syrian children struggling to adjust in public school. The IRC program builds core competencies in math, Arabic and a second language (English as well as French), with structured tutoring and child-centered learning activities. To date, the IRC has reached more than 4,300 Syrian refugee children across the Bekka and Akkar.

The Syrian war has exposed children like Mahmoud to unspeakable atrocities and hardships, but many hold onto to their hopes and dreams.  “I want to study biology and become a doctor,” says Mahmoud. “I don’t like to see sick people. I saw a lot of sick people in Syria. I want to do my part and make people feel better.” Now one of the top students in his public school, Mahmoud gives credit for his progress to the IRC class.

We at the IRC will continue to work to provide opportunities, and safe havens, to more youth like Mahmoud, and provide the foundation towards a conflict free future.

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Mar 27, 2018

Update--Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.

In January, the IRC released projected figures for refugee resettlement in the United States. The IRC’s analysis shows the nations resettlement program on track to resettle only 21,292 refugees in Fiscal Year 2018, well below the administrations 45,000 cap, and far below the historic annual average of 95,000.

David Miliband, CEO and President of the IRC released a statement, saying--

“The shocking figures we are releasing today show that the U.S. is on track to cut by three quarters the number of refugees allowed into the country for resettlement. This is a dramatic shift from 30 years of bipartisan practice, and represents an unprecedented assault on U.S. global leadership in this area.

“It is no exaggeration that the future of America as a home for refugees is now on the line. Congress needs to hold the administration to account for missing its own target, announced just four months ago.

“The administration’s determination to squeeze the life out of the refugee resettlement program will harm the lives, and life chances, of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and it sets a terrible moral example to the rest of the world.”

The IRC notes modest but still insufficient movement to address refugee populations prompted by upheavals in The Democratic Republic of Congo, Bhutan, Syria and Myanmar. More alarming are several trends tied to the extended travel ban, “red tape” vetting measures, and select family reunification holds, all of which prompt serious concerns for the integrity and impartiality of an immigration program historically based on need.

In the last year, thousands of refugees who were already vetted by the world’s strictest resettlement program and deemed ready to travel have been walled off through administrative barriers, not only dashing hopes of a brighter future for their families — and desperately desired safety for their children — but actively leaving them in harm’s way as well. We at the IRC are continuing to #StandWithTheBanned, and fight this historical low refugee acceptance cap—and we thank you for standing with us.

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