“There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty – today she is weeping.”

“In truth, refugees are fleeing terror – they are not terrorists.”

The theme chosen by the Society of African Missions for 2016 was “Welcoming the Stranger”. It was taken directly from Matthew 23:35 in which Jesus describes the last Judgement at which we will each be called to account for our human mercy and compassion: “I was… a stranger and you welcomed me.”  

President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Friday, 27 January 2017, suspending the resettlement of refugees to the USA, and blocking entry of Syrian refugees ‘until further notice’, has caused outrage both within the United States and around the world.

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, told IRIN’s Migration Editor, Kristy Siegfried, that refugees entering the USA through the country’s resettlement programme “already undergo an in-depth process of vetting by 12 to 15 government agencies, making it harder for them to enter the country than by any other route.”

Miliband also spoke an important truth when he exclaimed:

“Refugees are fleeing terror – they are not terrorists.”

Though not unexpected, given his rhetoric during his Presidential campaign, Trump’s ‘with immediate effect’ order caught many by surprise, not least emigration officials who appear to have had no pre-warning. It caused confusion amongst airline staff in foreign countries loading US bound aircraft; at US pre-clearance points in participating countries, including Ireland; and at airports throughout the USA.

Trump’s executive order is seen as a major setback to the global refugee programme. Last September, at a refugee summit in New York, the former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, asked states to take in at least 10 percent of the total refugee population (approximately two-million people).

According to the IRIN article, “around two thirds of the refugees referred for resettlement by UNHCR every year end up in the United States. In the 2016 fiscal year, the country resettled nearly 85,000 refugees and former president Barack Obama had recommended raising that figure to 110,000 in 2017.

For Syrian refugees, the wait is likely to be even longer. The executive order states that processing of Syrian nationals is to cease entirely, until “sufficient changes have been made to [the US Refugee Admissions Programme] to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest”.

Syrians made up nearly 16 percent of refugee admissions to the United States in 2016 and have been the top nationality submitted by UNHCR for resettlement in recent years.

A glaring omission from the Executive Order is Saudi Arabia from where all of the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC came from.

The full IRIN article may be read here:

There has been a global backlash to the US President’s Executive Order:

The editor of ‘America’ Magazine, the Jesuit review, James Martin, S.J. has seen an article he posted, “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me”, go viral. In two days it had received 5 million hits.

The article pulls no punches and describes the Executive Order as ‘un-Christian’. Fr Martin’s article may be read here: 

The Elders, including Ireland’s Mary Robinson, have also issued a statement roundly condemning the Order. Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, Chair of the Elders, stated:

“It is deeply regrettable that a nation of immigrants should turn its back so harshly on refugees escaping violence and war. Curtailing the US resettlement programme, the last lifeline to so many, undermines the great values of a nation that has always championed humanitarian principles and human rights.”

The Elder’s Press Statement may be accessed here:

And finally, Madeleine Albright, the US’s first woman Secretary of State, issued a scathing condemnation of Trump’s Executive Order. Recalling her own origins as a refugee admitted to the USA following the Soviet invasion of former Czechoslovakia, she Tweeted Friday evening: 

“I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian & found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim.”

On the 30 January she issued an outspoken and candid statement in which she recalls her childhood memory of first seeing the Statue of Liberty:

“I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and seeing the Statue of Liberty when I came here as a child. It proclaims “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. “There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty, and today she is weeping.”

Madeleine Albright’s full statement may be read here:

 

 

 

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