By Marija Sajkas
Evaluating the coming summits as “a tremendous opportunity”, Mr. Hetfield said that “there’s never been anything like this, where heads of state have actually gotten together to discuss refugees” and that the desired outcome is “making sure that the refugee problem is addressed humanely and does not continue to get worse”.
HIAS’s ask at the summit will be for the states to reaffirm three basic principles - that every refugee should be able to access asylum from persecution, that every refugee should be given the opportunity for a durable solution to his or her plight without having to wait years for it, and that every refugee, every displaced person, every migrant is entitled to the same human rights as everyone else.
Asked to make the distinction between refugees and migrants, Mr. Hetfield said that the biggest one is “That a refugee has the right to protection from being returned to a place where he or she would be persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”, adding that “It is definitely a mixed flow that is entering Europe.”
He also said that it is very important for host countries to make those decisions very quickly. “The biggest enemy to an orderly migration process is a backlog where people are not having their claims assessed,” said Hetfield.
For that reason, HIAS will also advocate for a larger amount of investment in the countries that are hosting refugees and displaced people in the region.
“It’s no coincidence that the number of refugees who were leaving Jordan to come to Europe last summer happened at the same time as the World Food Program cut 350,000 of them off from food assistance” said Mr. Hetfield concluding that “There needs to be a lot more assistance to keep refugees safe where they are”.
He also said that the world leaders need to hear that “The refugees are going to come whether you invite them to come or not…in a way, they will vote with their feet.”
According to HIAS, there are 60 million displaced people in the world right now – about 20 million refugees, 40 million internally displaced, and only about 1 percent of the world’s refugees are resettled in a year. The spotlight is on Syria, but Africa has long been the largest source of refugees, and the largest number of refugees is also hosted within African countries, followed by a crisis in Afghanistan and Somalia.