We are pleased to announce that as of August 2, 2014, the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) has completed the transition to become an independent legal and fiscal entity. After 25 years of significant impact in improving the lives of refugee, internally displaced and migrant women, children and youth around the world, this new status will allow WRC to build its capacity to assume an even more prominent advocacy role and ensure that it makes an even bigger difference for people uprooted by crisis and conflict.
Back in the 1980s, when Liv Ullmann and Catherine O'Neill, International Rescue Committee (IRC) board members, visited refugee camps, they saw that refugee women and children were seldom consulted and their specific needs rarely identified or taken into account.
To address this gap, and with the support of IRC, Liv and Catherine founded the Women's Refugee Commission to conduct research and advocacy on behalf of displaced women and children. The small organization, with an ambitious agenda, was housed within the IRC but always developed and ran its own programs, conducted its own advocacy and raised all its own funds.
Despite considerable progress over the years, the need for an organization like WRC remains great. With more refugees today than at any time since World War II, and with ongoing crises in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Myanmar and many other countries, as well as the current influx of unaccompanied children into the United States, WRC's knowledge and expertise have never been in greater demand.
For 25 years, the IRC has been proud to house the WRC. Our collaborative partnership has been extremely fruitful, and we will continue to work closely together on many critical initiatives. IRC celebrates the WRC's successes and fully stands behind the organization's new independence.
Women's Refugee Commission
International Rescue Committee
For Immediate Release: Contact: Katy Green at 650-464-1545
Washington, DC – Before the debate over how to address the ongoing humanitarian emergency at the U.S. border draws to a close, immigration advocates, DREAMers and policy experts gathered on a press call today to discuss the current state of play; address the possible scenarios should Congress fail to pass something; react to recent GOP attempts to attack DACA; and explain what this all means moving forward.
Speakers included Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration Policy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Wendy Young, President, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND); Lorella Praeli, Director of Advocacy & Policy for United We Dream; and Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice
To listen to a recording from today's call, click here.
Contact: Katy Green at 650-464-1545
**** PRESS CALL ****
Today, July 31, 2014 at 1pm ET
DIAL: 877-888-4294; Passcode: CHILDREN
Washington, DC – Today, July 31st, both the House and the Senate are expected to take final votes on their respective bills addressing the child refugee emergency. What shakes out and how both parties handle the legislative process will have serious implications for the thousands of children fleeing unspeakable violence at the U.S. border as well as the political prospects for both parties.
Before the debate draws to a close, immigration advocates, DREAMers and policy experts will gather on a press call to discuss the current state of play in the ongoing debate; address the possible scenarios should Congress fail to pass something; react to recent GOP attempts to attack DACA; and explain what this all means moving forward.
WHAT: Immigration Advocates, DREAMers & Policy Experts Discuss State of Play in Child Refugee Debate
WHEN: Thursday, July 31st at 1pm ET
WHO: Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration Policy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights & Justice Program at the Women's Refugee Commission Wendy Young, President, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
Lorella Praeli, Director of Advocacy & Policy for United We Dream
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy, Center for American Progress*
DIAL-IN INFO: 877-888-4294; Passcode: CHILDREN
Children and the Crisis at the Border
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
National Press Club
529 14th Street NW, 13th Fl.
Washington, DC 20045
*** A recording of today's call is available here ***
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 — Today, immigrants' rights lawyers and advocates called on the government to halt deportations of women and children in custody at the remote Artesia family detention center in New Mexico, where the U.S. government began warehousing Central American children and women three weeks ago.
Lawyers and activists representing 22 groups were the first members of the public permitted in the Artesia facility this week during tightly controlled tours. During a telephonic press briefing the groups also demanded that the Obama administration stop the expansion of family detention and allow refugee families to be placed in humane, effective, and far less costly alternative forms of custody. Such a shift would free up resources to address dire access to counsel and due process concerns advocates observed during their visits.
Listen to July 24 press briefing by immigrants' rights groups on visit with mothers and children detained in Artesia, NM.
More than three weeks after the U.S. government began warehousing young Central American children and their parents in a remote detention facility in Artesia, NM, immigrants' rights lawyers and advocates were allowed to visit the families for the first time in a tightly controlled tour. The advocates who met with immigrant families will hold a telephonic press briefing on Thursday, July 24, to discuss the visits at the Artesia facility.
"Family detention is always an awful and damaging process but the conditions at the Artesia Family Detention facility in New Mexico should make every American hang their head in shame. The facility, which was thrown together at the last minute, is filled with young children, many of whom are not eating and rapidly losing weight, with little to no medical treatment available and nothing to do. Phone access is restricted, and parents are denied access to critical information on their rights, including private access to attorney interviews. The insufficient and almost nonexistent mental health and trauma support available for women and children refugees is horrifying.
For Immediate Release
MEDIA ADVISORY - TELEPHONIC PRESS BRIEFING THURSDAY
Immigrants' Rights Groups to Discuss Visit with Mothers and Children Detained in Artesia, NM
Advocates Call on Washington to Improve Due Process Protections
Thursday July 24, 2014, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 a.m. Pacific
Participant Dial In Number: 866-952-8562 - Conference ID: BORDER
WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than three weeks after the U.S. government began warehousing young Central American children and their parents in a remote detention facility in Artesia, NM, immigrants' rights lawyers and advocates were allowed to visit the families for the first time in a tightly controlled tour. The advocates who met with immigrant families will hold a telephonic press briefing on Thursday, July 24, to discuss the visits at the Artesia facility.
Geneva, Switzerland, July 10, 2014 – A new report from the Women's Refugee Commission, Disability Inclusion: Translating Policy into Practice in Humanitarian Action, launched today at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, highlights the challenges facing the estimated 7.7 million people with disabilities who are forcibly displaced around the world due to persecution, conflict and human rights violations, as well as advances in improving accessibility and inclusion in humanitarian programs.
At the launch, UNHCR and the government of Finland announced their increased commitment to disability inclusion. UNHCR will recruit a professional to provide technical support and will develop training materials for use across the entire agency. The government of Finland has committed to fund this work for the next three years.
Listen to a recording of today's press briefing:
Refugee, Legal and Policy Experts React to Obama Administration’s Supplemental Funding Request for Central American Children Seeking Protection
Discuss the Policy, Priorities, and Path Forward
Washington, DC – Refugee, policy and legal experts held a press call today to review the Obama Administration’s emergency supplemental request to respond to the increase in children fleeing Central America and seeking protection in the United States (as well as other countries in the region).
Speakers included Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights & Justice Program at the Women's Refugee Commission; Greg Chen, Director of Advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association; Megan McKenna, Communications and Advocacy Director for Kids in Need of Defense (KIND); and Leslie E. Vélez, Senior Protection Officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
To listen to a recording of today’s call, CLICK HERE.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Katy Green at 650-464-1545
**** PRESS CALL ****
TODAY, July 9th, 2014 at Noon Eastern
DIAL: 866-952-7530; Passcode: CHILDREN
Refugee, Legal and Policy Experts React to Obama Administration's Supplemental Funding Request for Central American Children Seeking Protection Discuss the Policy, Priorities, and Path Forward
Statement from Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights & Justice Programs at Women's Refugee Commission, addresses the news that the Obama Administration will seek nearly $4 billion from Congress in response to the immigration crisis
"As we all seek answers to manage the realities on our southern border, and provide care and custody to unaccompanied children, we are deeply concerned that the White House's request focused primarily on the use of harsh, often ineffective and potentially illegal deterrents, rather than addressing the root causes of the crisis.
We urge Congress to approve funding that provides more support to the Executive Office of Immigration Review to ensure timely and fair proceedings that includes legal representation for all children and families, and allocate funds to address root causes of the crisis through promoting the rule of law, education, protection, and youth development abroad in addition to long term reintegration programs. The Administration's enforcement and deterrence approach may only succeed in driving children fleeing violence further into the hands of traffickers and smugglers as they seek protection. We urge Congress to remember that we can manage the flow of migrants while also complying with current US and international laws and ensuring the support, care and custody of those children, who have already been through so much, while their proceedings take place."
# # #
A long list of organizations signed a letter delivered today to Department of Homeland Security officials asking them to look for alternatives to detention for families and children seeking refuge at the border.
Citing the lawsuit, human rights abuses and national outcry that surrounded the end of family detention at the T. Don Hutto facility, the last family detention center in Texas, they argue that there are alternatives to lock-up for refugee families.
Women’s Refugee Commission Outraged As Obama Administration Doubles Down on Deportation and Detention, Seeking Permission from Congress To Roll Back Protections for Children and Opening the Artesia Family Detention Center in NM
Statement from Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights & Justice Programs at Women's Refugee Commission on this weekend’s announcement that the Obama Administration would seek legislative changes that jeopardize the safety of children seeking protection and following Friday’s news that the Administration has begun housing families at the Artesia Detention Center and plans to have them processed and removed within in less than two weeks time:
Humanitarian Group Slams the White House for Prioritizing Political Cover Over Protecting Women and Children at Risk of Violence
Statement from Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights & Justice Programs at Women's Refugee Commission on today’s announcement that the Obama Administration has begun housing families at the Artesia Detention Center and plans to have them processed and removed within 10 to 15 days:
June 25, 201: Statement submitted to the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives' hearing called “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors”
Since 2011, the Women’s Refugee Commission has been closely monitoring the increasing number of refugee children coming to the United States to seek protection. Through our research, we concluded over two years ago that the United States would continue to receive more vulnerable migrants from Central America due to the regional humanitarian crisis born from the rapid growth in crime, violence and poverty that has affected Mexico and several Central American countries for many years. As we predicted, without major changes in U.S. aid or foreign policy to the Central American region, the danger to children and families with young children would only increase and more and more vulnerable populations would need to flee their homes. Unfortunately, our predictions rang true, and the United States, along with other countries in the region with a strong rule of law, has experienced a surge of refugees seeking protection on our territories. The U.S., along with Panama, Belize, Nicaragua and Costa Rica are experiencing a surge in people seeking protection and are faced with many challenges in ensuring the protection of these large numbers of children. The number of asylum claims in the entire region has increased by 712%.
Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 at 11am EST
DIAL: 866-952-1907; Passcode: CHILDREN
Amidst Series of House Hearings, Experts and Hearing Witnesses Weigh In on Child Refugee Issue
Experts to Provide Reactions to Tuesday's Hearing, Assess U.S. and International Response, and Preview Wednesday's Dual House Hearings
Washington, DC – The influx of child refugees at the U.S. border fleeing violence has solicited a wide variety of responses from both the Obama Administration and Congress. And with a week full of House Hearings on this topic, policy experts are weighing in to set the facts straight and offer their reactions to the recent developments surrounding this ongoing humanitarian issue.
Statement from Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights & Justice Programs at Women's Refugee Commission on today’s US government decision to detain and deport migrant families.
“Plain and simple, family detention is an awful and damaging process. It profoundly and irreversibly affects the physical and mental health of children and breaks down parent-child relationships. We are gravely concerned by the Administration’s announcement that it will expand the use of family detention and deny families full access to protection under U.S. and international law. While the administration is understandably under pressure to create order out of this humanitarian crisis, locking babies in prison cells and deporting women and young children to dangerous situations are not the answers.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Geneva, Switzerland, June 17, 2014 – The Women's Refugee Commission and a coalition of international organizations will tomorrow launch the International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws. The campaign will be launched at a side event during the 26th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The steering committee of the campaign comprises Equality Now, Equal Rights Trust, Tilburg University Statelessness Programme, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Women and the Women's Refugee Commission.
"In 27 countries around the world, women are unable to pass on their nationality to their children, or to their non-national spouses, on an equal basis with men," said Rachael Reilly, Geneva Representative for the Women's Refugee Commission. "In over 60 countries, women face discrimination in their ability to acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis with men. Such discrimination is in violation of international law and can have devastating consequences on women and their families."
*** MEDIA ADVISORY ***
WHAT: Detained or Deported: What About My Children? Women's Refugee Commission's toolkit to help immigrant parents protect their parental rights
WHEN: Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 1:00 – 2:30 P.M.
WHERE: Migration Policy Institute, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036
WHO: Women's Refugee Commission, Migration Policy Institute
*** MEDIA ADVISORY ***
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GENEVA – This event will officially launch the International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws. The Campaign is made up of a coalition of NGOs, UN agencies and academics. This launch will take place during a side event at the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council.
WHAT: Launch of the International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws
WHEN: Wednesday 18 June, 13h – 15h
WHERE: Room XXV, Bâtiment E, Palais des Nations, Geneva
WHO: UNHCR, Mission of the United States, Women's Refugee Commission, Equality Now
New research throws spotlight on positive practices and ongoing gaps to meet the needs of 6.7 million displaced people with disabilities
New York, NY – A new report from the Women's Refugee Commission, Disability Inclusion: Translating Policy into Practice in Humanitarian Action, launched today, highlights the challenges facing the estimated 6.7 million people with disabilities who are forcibly displaced around the world due to persecution, conflict and human rights violations, as well as advances in improving accessibility and inclusion in humanitarian programs.
Group discussions with more than 770 displaced persons, including persons with disabilities and their families, and nearly 400 humanitarian actors across eight countries, revealed that women, children and youth with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to protection concerns.
- Thomson Reuters to partner on online video series and host high-profile Times Square panel event on women's leadership on May 20th
- Hollywood advocates Meryl Streep and Liv Ullmann will speak at WRC "Voices of Courage" Awards Luncheon honoring former refugees in New York City on May 1st
The often unheard voices of refugees and displaced women and children will be given a new platform thanks to a campaign from the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) in partnership with Thomson Reuters.
The year-long Voices of Courage campaign, which marks the WRC's 25th anniversary of advocating for refugee women and children across the world, will shine a spotlight on people displaced by war, persecution and natural disaster, as well as promote women's leadership in its many forms.
A series of short WRC videos will showcase stories such as that of Lorena Castro, who fled Colombia as a 12-year-old girl to escape an abusive father – only to find herself held in an immigration detention facility in Pennsylvania for two years with her mother and sisters.
- Women’s Refugee Commission to recognize Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, Chernor Bah from Sierra Leone and Mary Tal from Cameroon for outstanding leadership at “Voices of Courage” Awards Luncheon on May 1st
- Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep and actress, director and WRC co-founder Liv Ullmann to appear, with Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai presenting via video
- Meryl Streep “delighted” to be able to honor “individuals who have become leaders of refugee women and girls in their own communities”
April 16th, 2014 – A visionary Liberian campaigner whose peace activism helped end the 14-year Second Civil War and earned her the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize is one of three former refugees being honored by the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) at the Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon on May 1st in New York City.
Leymah Gbowee, whose story is told in the 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell and her memoir Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War, will receive the Voices of Courage accolade alongside girls champion and youth education advocate Chernor Bah, and lawyer and refugee rights activist Mary Tal.
***SAVE THE DATE***
Event: Voices of Courage Awards, May 1, 2014, Cipriani 42nd Street
Women's Refugee Commission to mark 25th anniversary with Voices of Courage Awards for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee and former refugees from Sierra Leone and Cameroon
Meryl Streep and WRC co-founder Liv Ullmann to speak, Malala Yousafzai to present via video
New York, NY, March 17, 2014 – The Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) will honor three exemplary former refugees and celebrate its 25th anniversary at the Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon on May 1 in New York City.
Three-time Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep and Oscar-nominated actress and director Liv Ullmann, who is the WRC co-founder and honorary chair, will speak at the event, together with Dr. Sima Samar, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, who will appear via video.
The Voices of Courage honorees for 2014 are the Liberian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, Chernor Bah from Sierra Leone and Mary Tal from Cameroon.
Women's Refugee Commission calls for better protection measures, gender-based programs and a switch to long-term planning as new report shows harsh reality of life for women and girls fleeing into Jordan
New York, NY -- On the eve of the third anniversary of the start of the war in Syria, the Women's Refugee Commission is calling for a renewed focus on the needs of the largest and most at-risk group of refugees – women and children – and a switch to long-term planning in the field.
In a report out today, Unpacking Gender: The Humanitarian Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Jordan, the New York-based organization reveals new research carried out in Jordan, where more than half a million Syrian refugees now reside, on how gender needs are being catered for in the humanitarian response.
The Women’s Refugee Commission welcomes the theme of the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. This thematic focus provides the international community with a significant opportunity to address the gaps in the ability of the Goals to engender development for the most marginalized women and girls, including those who are refugees or internally displaced, and create a transformative new development framework.
Standards will reduce threat of rape for immigrants in detention
WASHINGTON, D.C.—On February 28, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized the long-awaited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations to protect immigration detainees from sexual assault and abuse in immigration detention. While Congress unanimously passed the legislation over 10 years ago, enactment and implementation in DHS facilities has repeatedly been delayed.
WASHINGTON, DC--The Women's Refugee Commission staff has met with more than 150 children, aged 15 to 17, who had been apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the U.S./Mexico border. Almost all of them told distressing stories of mistreatment at the hands of Border Patrol officials, including being dragged along the ground and Tasered, and held in ice-cold cells at Border Patrol stations known as "la hielera" (the freezer). The children were unable to file complaints about the abuse they suffered because they had no Internet access in federal detention.
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 12, 2013 – Congresswoman Barbara Boxer [D-CA] today introduced the Humane Short Term Custody Act, legislation aimed at improving the standards of treatment for individuals detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The bill focuses in particular on ensuring individuals detained in CBP short-term hold facilities are treated humanely.