Photo Credit: UNHCR/ H. Darwish - 11 year old Syrian refugee Omar shields his face from the bitter cold in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
On Friday 27th January, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on immigration which suspended the resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely, blocked refugees and citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria from entering the United States for 90 days and suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days.
The order caused chaos at airports around the world as travellers, including green card and valid visa holders, were detained and deported. Protests broke out at airports across the United States and outside of the White House. Political leaders from Canada, France, Germany, the UK and around the world condemned the order. Unsurprisingly, the hard-line Australian Government supported Trump’s ban, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop quoted as saying "I'm confident that the Australian government and the US government will continue to support each other in ensuring that we can implement our strong immigration and border protection policies." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organisations challenged Trump’s order in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, filing a suit to free two Iraqi’s being detained at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. A Federal District Court Judge issued a stay, preventing refugees and immigrants from being deported. Federal judges in the states of Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington also ruled against the deportation of refugees and others with valid visas. In a statement on their website, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero wrote that “Tonight was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, one that demonstrates that the people united will never be divided. This is only the beginning. This is merely the first skirmish in a long battle to vigorously defend the Bill of Rights from the authoritarian designs of the Trump administration.” The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration released a statement on Saturday, calling on the USA to continue to follow international law and protect those who are fleeing conflict and persecution, stating that “the needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater, and the U.S. resettlement program is one of the most important in the world.” “The longstanding U.S. policy of welcoming refugees has created a win-win situation: it has saved the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world who have in turn enriched and strengthened their new societies. The contribution of refugees and migrants to their new homes worldwide has been overwhelmingly positive.” “We strongly believe that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.” SOME STATS ON THE CURRENT REFUGEE CRISIS According to the UNHCR there are currently around 65.3 million people displaced by war and persecution, among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Every minute, 24 people are forced to flee their homes by violence or conflict. 140,000 resettlement spaces were provided globally in 2016 and according to the UNHCR, only 1% of displaced people will be resettled. Syria alone has produced 6.3 million displaced people with another 13.5 million people in need inside of Syria. HOW WE CAN HELP Stand #WithRefugees by signing the UNHCR petition to send world leaders a message that they must find a solution to this humanitarian crisis. Send the message around the world by sharing it on your social channels. Help the UNHCR to distribute winter relief (shelter insulation, warm clothing, heating stoves and fuel) to the tens of thousands of families displaced by the Syrian war. The region is often hit by fierce winter storms which send the temperature plummeting and blanket the higher ground with snow. Donate to the UNHCR or organise a fund raising event on their behalf. Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union and support their work defending and preserving the Constitution’s promise of liberty for everyone in the United States.