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We Cannot Forget Stranded Refugees

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 30/03/2016 Walt Cooper

In December 2015, hundreds of Sudanese refugees were arrested outside UNHCR's office in Amman, Jordan, and deported to Khartoum, Sudan. Their crime was peacefully protesting outside UNHCR's office, requesting access to durable solutions. The deported refugees were from Darfur and had fled the genocide in western Sudan. Many had witnessed their family members' executions and had been tortured by the Sudanese government. After being deported, many were arrested by the Sudanese government and tortured again. A few of these people were clients being assisted by the International Refugee Assistance Project, where I serve as Chairman of the Board.
The international community has failed to provide essential humanitarian assistance and resettlement opportunities to Syrian refugees, even as news headlines are filled with horrific reports about the conditions that displaced Syrians face. Questions are mounting as to whether the United States can meet its modest goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees. Even more disheartening is the international response to humanitarian needs from less-discussed or long-forgotten conflicts like those raging in Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan and South Sudan. In the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis, the worst refugee crisis since World War II, the international community cannot forget refugees of other nationalities.
The deportations of Sudanese refugees show the harsh reality that refugees of any nationality face in countries of first asylum. In countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, local schools and housing markets are overwhelmed by the number of refugees, and hospitality is wearing thin. Jordan's King Abdullah II warned that in the middle of regional instability, his country was at a "boiling point."
Refugees -- Syrian, Sudanese and others -- need sustained support. Five years into the Syrian conflict, the risk is that the international community will forget Syrian refugees in the way that it has forgotten Iraqis. Syrian refugees face closed borders and harsh living conditions; Sudanese refugees face mass deportations.
Countries like the United States must continue to lead in the response to the refugee crisis. Resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees sends a signal to host countries that we will also help with the refugee crisis. Allowing refugees into our fold shows that, years after a conflict has started, we understand that people are still displaced and continue to suffer. And it means that after years of living as a refugee fleeing from civil war -- whether in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, or Somalia -- an individual can still build a new life.

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