Do Not Conflate Victims and Perpetrators | The Center for Victims of Torture

Do Not Conflate Victims and Perpetrators

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Annie Sovcik is director of CVT’s Washington Office

In statements submitted today to the House Judiciary Committee for its hearing on the Syrian refugee crisis and its impact on the security of the U.S. refugee resettlement program and to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee for its hearing on ISIS and refugees, CVT urged lawmakers to not conflate the victims of mass government-sponsored atrocities and/or terrorist activities with the perpetrators of such horrific acts. 

CVT’s statements iterate that it stands in solidarity with efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. We support measures to prevent terrorists from gaining entry to the United States and to ensure that the United States is not a safe haven for human rights violators. At the same time, national security protections and a robust refugee resettlement program are not mutually exclusive.

Given the meticulous background checks in place in the U.S. refugee resettlement program, refugees are the most rigorously screened of anyone entering the United States. Believing that the United States can and must do more to address refugee needs around the world, CVT continues to call for the United States to commit to resettling 200,000 refugees in FY 2016, with 100,000 of them being Syrian.

As the conflict in Syria shows few signs of subsiding and its spill-over effects are increasingly evident, the levels of suffering, damage and despair throughout the region are immense. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that over 4 million Syrians are registered as refugees, with the majority in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 6.5 million people are displaced internally in Syria, with 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.  Throughout the region, people are scrambling to survive. Iraqi refugees who fled to Syria in the mid-2000’s have seen their new communities in Syria destroyed and are facing displacement again. Syrians who fled to Iraq in 2012 and 2013 are being forced to flee from violence there. Iraqis who may have returned when the country began to appear more stable are being forced back into exile in neighboring countries or displaced internally. OCHA reports estimates of more than 3.2 million people internally displaced within Iraq and 8.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

At its healing centers in Jordan, CVT provides inter-disciplinary trauma-rehabilitation services to men, women and children from Syria and Iraq. Clients in Jordan report that life is extraordinarily challenging for refugees. Work authorization is highly restricted and most refugees in Jordan do not have permission to work legally and earn a living. Simultaneously, humanitarian assistance is being reduced or cut, leaving refugees in an impossible situation of having neither the means nor the opportunity to meet their basic needs of shelter, food, medical assistance and education.

Without the prospect of returning home in the near future and unsustainable conditions in highly strained host communities, refugees are becoming more frustrated and more desperate. Strong U.S. leadership in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, including through resettlement, is essential. 

  • To read CVT’s statement submitted to the House Judiciary Committee, click here.
  • To read CVT’s statement for the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, click here.

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