By Melanie Nathan, Executive Director African Human Rights Coalition.
Or Mere Incompetence of the Trump Administration
In my capacity as the Executive Director of the African Human Rights Coalition, I advocate on behalf of LGBTI refugees in Africa. Since Donald Trump took office the program has been anything BUT smooth sailing! When Trump took office he signed two Executive Orders (dubbed The Muslim Travel Ban). Many reporting on the issue did not highlight the fact that the Executive Orders also attempted to suspend the entire United States refugee program. Both Trump’s Executive Orders have been struck down by the Courts with Appeals Courts confirming the TRO’s – which have the effect of ordering the status quo. This means that Trump cannot ban travel into the USA from Muslim countries and that he cannot suspend the U.S. Refugee program. The U.S. travel and refugee program must continue: However it is my belief that Trump is in effect defying the U.S. Court Orders, on the back end.
It seems as if the Trump administration is purposely defying the TRO by short-staffing the agency which deals with the resettlement of refugees to the United States. Perhaps this has been done through withholding funding or willful staff cut backs, which has a dramatic impact on the ability for the agency to function. It results in the redirection of staffing and the slowing down ( or even the halting) of the process. And if none of this is purposeful the it is clear that the Trump Government is so inept that it is unable to function.
The current resettlement delays we are noticing indicates a marked difference in efficiency when compared to the Obama administration.
RSC Africa is the U.S. Government resettlement Agency in Kenya, which is charged with resettling those refugees who have been assigned to the U.S.A. through the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. I am elucidating one of many cases that have reported undue delays to us at African HRC:
Generally LGBTI refugees go through an extreme vetting process that takes between 2-3 years, as in the case of our client. Toward the conclusion of the arduous process the refugee undergoes a series of medical exams and is then certified to travel. It usually takes several months for refugees to attain these medical appointments – so losing the certification due to travel delays is dire for refugees.
We sent a communication to RSC Africa on behalf of a refugee, requesting information on his travel status as his medical examination status is about to expire. A delay to this particular refugee could seriously impact his safety as his accommodations in safe shelter can no longer be supported. He should have traveled by now or at least received a travel date. Instead he is held in limbo. He sent his own written inquiry earlier in May and received no response. After we wrote on his behalf this was the AUTOMATED response we received:
Dear USRAP Partner,
RSC Africa is in receipt of your email and is currently operating on limited staff.
All resources available have been redirected to prioritize departure processing at this time.
We hope to respond to you as soon as possible.
Correspondence Unit, RSC Africa, US Refugee Admissions Program
In all the time we dealt with RSC Africa during the Obama administration, we never received an auto response asserting limited staff. I am suspicious that this short staffing – which may be due to lack of funds – perhaps staff culling – could be the Trump administration’s way of defying the TRO issued by the U.S. Courts. Is this Trump’s way of thwarting the entire refugee program regardless of the Court Orders? One then wonders if it is only LGBTI refugees that are being singled out? Only Muslim refugees? All refugees? And if not a willful ploy to foil the Court Orders – then what – pure incompetence? This case is NOT the only example!
Unfortunately we at African HRC do not have funding and hence the bandwidth to pursue this further and we are hoping that other agencies and investigative journalists take look further into this problem.
Melanie Nathan, [email protected]