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U.S. 'Border Crisis' In A Global Context

The so-called “border crisis” has been front and center in U.S. political debates in recent months, with the influx of unaccompanied Central American minors entering the country.

But some say what the U.S. is seeing is dwarfed by the massive flow of refugees into other countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Italy. In Italy, there has been a sharp rise in migrant landings in the recent weeks, with hundreds of migrants now being intercepted each day.

Bill Frelick of Human Rights Watch told  Here & Now’s Robin Young that Americans need some perspective.

“Lebanon, a country about the size of Connecticut, has seen an influx of about one million refugees from Syria,” Frelick said.

That would be the equivalent of about 73 million coming into the United States, a number that dwarfs the 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have been detained crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally since October.

“That’s not to minimize that number, that’s not to say that it’s insignificant, but Lebanon is seeing 20 times that number and it’s a much smaller country with much less capacity to handle an influx,” he said.

Frelick calls it a “luxury” that the United States and Europe have oceans on either side and are not contiguous with countries that are producing refugees in massive numbers.

“When you think of the request that President Obama made for $3.7 billion for 57,000 kids and you compare that to $210 million [requested by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees] for more than 300,000 refugees that have poured into Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he said, “it’s clear the basic resources to sustain these people is really under enormous strain.”

Looking domestically, Frelick believes there are solutions within reach.

“Here we have a backlog at the immigration court, what we do need are more judges that actually can make considered determinations to see is this person someone who needs international protection? Someone who we have obligations not to send back to a place where their life would be put in danger?,” he said. “In which case, we need to protect them.”


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Bill Frelick, director of Human Rights Watch's refugee program. (Reuters)
Bill Frelick, director of Human Rights Watch's refugee program. (Reuters)