News from the Week of May 16, 2016

Here is another round-up of what we’ve been reading and watching this week, from in the news and around the web:

During BBC’s World on the Move Day event, Angelina Jolie Pitt, the U.N. special envoy, warned that the humanitarian system for refugees is breaking down. She said U.N. appeals are severely underfunded while at the same time there are more than 60 million people displaced globally, more than at any time in the past 70 years. She also spoke of a “fear of migration” and a “race to the bottom” as countries compete to be the “toughest”—at great cost to their neighbors, and despite their international obligations.

Newsweek also reported that smugglers made $6 billion from the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015. Ninety percent of refugees come into the European Union through smuggling networks from Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. It estimated that the proportion of refugees relying on smugglers for facilitation services will likely increase in 2016.

Retired naval officer and VFAI member Doyle Hodges wrote a piece in The Star Ledger arguing that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s recent decision to withdraw state agencies from the federal refugee program compromises U.S. values, feeds ISIS propaganda, and undermines our ability to counter their propaganda. “Syrian refugees are fleeing the ideological descendants of bin Laden,” he wrote. “Are we ready to prove bin Laden right by allowing fear to overwhelm our compassion and good sense?”

On Wednesday, more than half the Democrats in the Senate, including many of President Barack Obama's strongest supporters, signed a letter urging him to move more quickly to admit Syrian refugees into the United States, stating, "Other nations, including ours, can and should do much more.”

On a more positive note, The Washington Post featured an article that explained refugees are as an investment, not a burden. In a rare study of the long-term effects of refugees on host countries, it found that refugee crises are actually moments of economic opportunity for countries accepting them. Refugees create more jobs, increase demand for services and products, and fill gaps in the workforce–while their wages help fund dwindling pensions pots and public finances.

In news of Afghan and Iraqi terps and translators, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, which did not allocate any more visas and narrowed eligibility requirements. The Senate version of the NDAA that passed through committee this week had no language on the Special Immigrant Visa program, but Senator McCain vowed to continue to fight for visas by introducing an amendment on the floor when the NDAA comes up for debate.

Finally, the Atlantic Council released its latest piece in its #5YearsWeFled series highlighting the difficult and often dangerous journey Syrian refugees must make as they travel across borders to reach one of the few countries willing to accept them: Germany.

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