Every day, all over the world, people are forced to make the most difficult decision of their lives – to leave their homes in search of safety someplace else.
They are forced to flee their homeland to escape persecution and torture or other severe human rights abuses, armed conflict and horrific violence. They might have been targeted just because of who they are or what they do – for example, for their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or political opinions. Often, they are permanently displaced and are never able to return home. We usually refer to people who are in this situation as refugees or asylum-seekers.
All of them deserve to have their human rights respected, and that’s what Amnesty International helps ensure.
Refugees are people forced to flee their countries and their homes because they fear for their lives or persecution based on who they are or what they believe. Right now, we’re in the middle of the largest global refugee crisis in recorded history. Tens of millions of people have been forced from their homes, from Africa to the Middle East, the Americas and Asia. All around the world, people are forced from their homes. Among them are particularly at-risk cases of torture survivors, people with severe medical conditions, orphaned children, and LGBTI individuals – many of these people, as well as others, have no option but to seek out resettlement in a third country.
This is a truly global crisis. And it requires the global community, working together, to solve.
Many refugees face violence and human rights abuses while trying to find safety, and then face discrimination and hostility when they finally begin to rebuild their lives in another country.
In the face of this humanitarian crisis, governments around the world are not doing enough to help. In the U.S., the Trump administration has implemented successive refugee bans and various administrative policies that are shutting the door on refugees. Layers of additional security screening measures and onerous new biographical data collection have severely restricted refugee admissions: a death by a thousand cuts. These bans and policies disproportionately affect Muslim refugees and are effectively dismantling the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
But the U.S. is also restricting the number of refugees who can resettle here. Every year, the president determines the number of refugees that can be admitted for the coming fiscal year. In 2018, President Trump set that number at 45,000 — the lowest ceiling since the U.S. refugee program was established in 1980. At the current rate, the U.S. will admit fewer than 25,000 refugees in 2018, another new record — the lowest number of refuges resettled since the modern U.S. refugee program began. This is after the Trump administration slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country by nearly half in 2017.
This is a political crisis created by bad policies, and the attacks on resettlement harm all refugees.
The U.S. is turning its back on some of the world’s most vulnerable, setting an example for other nations to follow.
Decades ago, countries of the world agreed to a set of basic principle for how refugees would be treated when they go to another country seeking asylum, or emergency protection from violence or persecution. The U.S. and other countries agreed to treat people with compassion and to respect their human rights while their claims are considered. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14) states that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries. The 1951 UN Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol protects refugees from being returned to countries where they risk being persecuted and their right to ask for asylum, regardless of how and where they arrive in a country. Refugees and asylum-seekers have the same rights as all other human beings.
The U.S. has not been living up to this commitment. Every year, tens of thousands of people come to the U.S. and ask for asylum. They are refugees in search of protection. Many come to the U.S. southern border. Some people seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border are turned away or deported without having their claims heard in an immigration court – and forced to return to countries where they may be tortured, imprisoned, or even killed. Others are sometimes held in detention without easy access to attorneys or charged with crimes for entering the country irregularly to ask for asylum. Children might be jailed with their parents or forcibly separated from their families. Through executive orders and successive policies since 2017, the Trump administration is working to detain keep all asylum-seekers who come to the U.S. southern border while their claims are adjudicated. This can take weeks, months, even years.
Amnesty International has helped protect the human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers for decades – documenting the conditions they’re fleeing, ensuring that individual people are protected, and changing the policies so that more people can rebuild their lives in safety.