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  • Rights & Justice

    We Stand With Refugee Women and Girls

    At a time when violence has forced record numbers of people to flee their homes, the Women’s Refugee Commission urges the incoming Administration and Congress to maintain strong bipartisan support for life-saving humanitarian assistance and unwavering leadership on the protection of human rights, including the right to asylum.

    VIDEO: The Needs of Refugee Women and Children in the Global Humanitarian Crisis

    In this powerful talk, executive director Sarah Costa explains the work of the Women's Refugee Commission, and discusses the current crisis. The numbers are staggering: one in 122 people across the world have been forced to flee, and the majority are women and children. The average length of displacement is 20 years. What can be done to help?

    Seeking asylum in U.S. immigration courts is a lot like playing roulette

    Katharina Obser at the Women’s Refugee Commission in New York said that eliminating immigration detention altogether could make it easier for asylum applicants to find an attorney and prepare for the legal process.

    “To [go through the process] alone, without the assistance of an expert immigration attorney, it’s nearly impossible,” Obser said. “It is such a complicated process that, often, people are forced to navigate on their own without speaking English and without having access to even basic legal information, let alone being able to prepare a legal case in front of an immigration judge where there is opposing counsel.”

    Illegal Immigration Is Changing. Border Security Is Still Catching Up

    Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights at the Women's Refugee Commission, says the administration's push to discourage people from coming to the United States has, instead, backfired. Federal courts soon chipped away at the scope of the administration's immigrant family detention practices.

    And according to Brané, the new border statistics only confirm that Central Americans will continue to find a way to the United States, no matter what stands before then.

    "If you're in a burning house, you're going to find a way out no matter how many obstacles are put in your way," Brané said.

    Immigration agency is expanding family detention facilities

    “I don’t know what they’re thinking, to be honest with you,” Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program for the Women’s Refugee Commission, said of ICE’s renewal of the Dilley contract. “I find it odd, and it certainly is not setting things up for the new president in any way, whoever that is, to move forward with their own plan.”

    The Obama administration’s response to Central American refugees is wrong

    We cannot and should not stop people from fleeing violence to save their children’s lives, but we can ensure that the process through which they reach safety is orderly and efficient and complies with fundamental American values.

    Call Them Refugees

    It’s time for the U.S. government to treat these families as refugees rather than “criminal aliens” and a “national security threat,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “The U.S. government has spent huge amounts of money on detention and deterrence, and it isn’t working. The money should go to the courts and the asylum process so we can enforce the rule of law. Right now the asylum court backlog is five years.”

    An outsider takes charge of the Border Patrol — and yes, he'll wear the green uniform

    “The really tricky part is to make sure he has buy-in from the rank and file and the boots on the ground who will be following his leadership,” said Michelle Brané, an immigrant rights advocate at the New York-based Women's Refugee Commission, who met with Morgan last month.

    CLARA: How a livelihoods and risk assessment tool is supporting women’s economic empowerment

    In Partnership with the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) Oxfam in Iraq has piloted the Cohort Livelihoods and Risk Assessment (CLARA) tool. In June 2015 Oxfam and the Women's Refugee Comission (WRC) used this innovative participatory research method intended to help learn more about the challenges facing women - and in particular challenges to women's economic empowerment - in the northernmost district of Diyala governorate (Manell and Roberson 2015).

    WRC Represented at Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (ACFRC)

    On Friday, Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission will join fellow members of the Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (ACFRC) in a public meeting at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to discuss recommended reforms to the family detention program.

    Five Questions About the Historic UN Summits on Refugees and Migrants

    "The summits provided a good opportunity to highlight what’s going on, but we were disappointed that there were not more concrete, tangible commitments made that would make a real difference on the ground for refugees and migrants." - Sarah Costa, Executive Director of WRC

    Germany Makes Refugee Shelters Safer for Women – But Problems Remain

    “Often there are no separate living spaces for women and families and no sex-separated latrines or shower facilities,” according to the Women's Refugee Commission's recent report. “Women and girls are vulnerable to rape, assault and other violence in these facilities.”

    VIDEO: Shadow Summit: The U.S. Response to Central American Refugees

    The United States and other nations hosted a leaders summit on September 20, 2016 to discuss the world refugee crisis and how nations can increase their commitments to refugee protection worldwide. In a side event, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) hosted the Shadow Summit: U.S. Response to Central American Refugees, a panel discussion examining U.S. policy response to unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America.

    Katharina Obser, WRC Senior Program Officer of Migrant Rights and Justice Program joined fellow panelists Dr. Allen Keller, Director, Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture; Karen Lucas, Associate Director of Advocacy, American Immigration Lawyers Association; and Elvis Garcia Callejas, Migration Counselor, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and Former Unaccompanied Minor. 

    A video of the panel discussion is now available for viewing (below).

    DHS Announces Application of Expedited Removal to Haitian Earthquake Survivors

    Statement by Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program

    Announcement highlights need for reform of procedures for processing asylum-seekers at our border

    This morning, the Department of Homeland Security announced that they will resume removals to Haiti and begin applying expedited removal to Haitian earthquake survivors seeking safety at our southern border.

    Women’s Refugee Commission: Refugee Protection Must be Gender Specific

    "We are looking for an explicit, detailed commitment to protect all displaced women and girls from gender-based violence while in transit and upon reaching their destinations. We are also calling for expansion of legal and safe employment opportunities that leverage the capacity of refugee women and youth to sustain and protect themselves and their families." - Marcy Hersh, WRC senior advocacy officer

    WRC Applauds Clinton Commitment to End Family Detention

    Hillary Clinton Renews Commitment to Ending Inhumane Family Detention, Private Prisons

    Women’s Refugee Commission applauds Clinton’s announcement, urges Obama Administration to end these practices now.

    Media Advisory: WRC at 71st UN General Assembly Events

    As world leaders gather at the United Nations for the first high-level summit on Refugess and migrants, the Women’s refugee commission asserts that all responses to refugees and migrants must protect the rights and improve the lives of women, children, and youth.


    WHAT: New York, NY - On Monday, September 19, 2016, the 71st UN General Assembly will convene Heads of State and leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector at the first high-level summit focused on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants. This landmark meeting aims to bring countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach. 

    WHEN: Friday, September 16th through Tuesday, September 20th. WRC will support the following events listed below:

    The Neglected Stories Of Refugee Women

    "We know that a great number of people who arrived in Greece, seeking to reunite with their families in other European countries, are women and children," -states Obser- "who are now trapped in a very unsafe situation."

    Private Prison Reveals the Truth About Obama Immigration Policy

    “What’s really very clear under international and domestic law is that there will always be people who need to flee immediately for various reasons,” Brane told ThinkProgress. “Those people continue to have the right to seek asylum at our borders. You’re not going to stop people from jumping out of a burning house by locking the door."

    Why the U.S. effort to stop Central Americans from surging across the border is failing

    "There's no question that deterrence has not been effective, and why would it be if you're fleeing for your life?" said Michelle Brane. "If people are trapped in a burning house or a burning apartment, they're going to find a way out."