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How aid groups are responding to Trump’s refugee ban

Syrian refugee children in a Lebanese school classroom. (Credit: U.K. Department for International Development/Flickr)

The Trump administration’s executive order on refugees was met with immediate backlash from the humanitarian community. Aid groups that provide direct support to refugees around the world condemned the act that bars entry to Syrian refugees, places all refugee resettlement on hold for 120 days and temporarily bans people from seven countries. Some are issuing statements and others are providing information on how their supporters can take action against the order.

And there are many who remain silent. Some do work that focuses on issues that do not deal with refugees and the countries directly affected by the order. Others have decided not to issue public statements. That includes aid groups that are providing direct support to the millions of Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Below is a list of groups and what they are saying and doing about the order. At the end, is a list of groups that have yet to speak out against the order.

Statements condemning the ban and associated actions

ActionAid USAstatement

“ActionAid stands with all immigrants and refugees. We condemn all actions that make it harder for refugees to seek safety in our country, and that promote the targeting of immigrants, divide families, and foster division based on race, ethnicity, religion and nationality.

“The Trump administration must revise its hateful and harmful agenda, and demonstrate its commitment to human rights, not create greater divisions within our nation. ActionAid will continue to take sides with people living in poverty and exclusion around the world, and stand strong in the face of threats to people’s rights at home and overseas.”

Acumen – tweets by founder Jacqueline Novogratz

American Relief Coalition for Syria – statement

“The decision to halt resettlement would not only be detrimental to the safety and livelihoods of Syrians currently waiting to be resettled but also harmful to Syrian refugees who have already been resettled in the U.S. Such a policy is antithetical to American values and humanitarian principles and we urge the President and Congress to reconsider.

“The legal process for gaining refugee status in the U.S. is lengthy and arduous with rigorous security and background checks for each applicant. According to the Migration Policy Institute, only 18,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the United States since 2011, out of the nearly 4.8 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Nearly all resettled refugees have been families with women and children who are adapting in their new host cities and have been embraced by interfaith groups and community organizations.”

Amnesty Internationalstatement by Salil Shety, secretary-general

“Were it not so disturbing and dangerous, this Executive Order would be pathetic in its absurdity.

“It is ludicrous because there is no data to support the view that refugees – Muslim or otherwise – pose more risk of committing acts of terrorism than citizens. A refugee is not a person who commits acts of terrorism. It is someone fleeing people who commit acts of terrorism. Under international law, perpetrators of these crimes are automatically disqualified from refugee status. Additionally, the US Refugee Admissions Program puts refugees through the most rigorous and detailed security screenings of any category of persons – immigrant or visitor – to enter the USA.

“The Executive Order is preposterous in its irrationality. But no one should be laughing about it.

“This is a deeply frightening document.”

CAREstatement by CEO Michelle Nunn

“Not only will this order put significant numbers of individuals fleeing conflict and persecution at immediate risk, but also it will harm our relations around the world. Frontline states, such as Jordan, struggle to keep their borders open to millions of people just trying to survive. Should the U.S. not live up to our humanitarian commitments, we could foreseeably compromise relationships vital to our national interests.

“Given the level of displacement in the world today, it is more important than ever that the U.S. continue to resettle the most vulnerable individuals based solely on need, blind to race, religion or nationality. Governments, NGOs and the private sector must work in tandem to find solutions that allow displaced individuals to lead productive and dignified lives outside of conflict.”

Catholic Relief Services – petition letter to Trump and Congress

“As Catholics and Christians, we have a moral obligation to offer shelter and assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to afford them refuge. As a Catholic, I support refugees because of my values and agree with Pope Francis: ‘There must be no family without a home, no refugee without a welcome, no person without dignity….’ As people of faith we must act and send a positive message to those around the world who are suffering. In Matthew 25, Jesus is asked, ‘When did we see you a stranger and welcome you?’ Jesus replied, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did for me.’ I ask that we follow this example and welcome the stranger, not turn them away.”

Concern WorldwideStatement by CEO Jack Haire

“The executive action puts a significant number of extremely vulnerable individuals fleeing conflict and persecution at risk and will put additional pressure on an already stressed humanitarian response. Becoming a refugee is a last resort. We know from working with refugees and people affected by conflict for decades that they do not want to leave their deep roots behind for an uncertain future. Home is home. They have seen and experienced extreme violence and chaos, and have been through intensive, often years-long vetting processes in an effort to reach the U.S., a country founded on welcoming the tired, the poor, the huddled masses and the homeless. All of these individuals, all of these families, have been through enough.”

Doctors Without Bordersstatement 

“The executive order’s indefinite ban on Syrian refugees is particularly harmful for millions of Syrians displaced by horrific violence. Nearly 5 million people have fled Syria into neighboring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon, which have populations smaller than many American states (the United States, by contrast, has accepted fewer than 20,000 Syrian refugees). Many more Syrians are trapped inside their country, including tens of thousands in the desert near the closed Jordanian border, and at other closed borders throughout the region.

“The president’s executive order will effectively keep people trapped in war zones, directly endangering their lives.”

Global Citizen – Call to sign open letter to Trump

“You crossed that line through your Executive Order on refugees. Refugees are the most vulnerable fellow citizens on our planet, fleeing unimaginable horrors of conflict, persecution and disaster.

“Americans know this, because we have repeatedly opened our arms to those seeking safety – those fleeing the Holocaust, the Cuban Revolution, Communism, and dictators over decades.

“American leadership created the Refugee Convention, and today, you are walking away from it by instigating a policy that explicitly discriminates on the basis of religion and nationality.”

Handicap International – statement by Jeff Meer, executive director

“Handicap International supports internally displaced people and refugees from all but two of the seven targeted countries in a variety of settings, including within their own country, and in countries of first asylum. In each case, an interruption in their ability to resettle abroad could have significant negative consequences for people who are already extremely vulnerable.

“Conditions in many camps are already crowded. To close off even a small avenue for some refugees to leave for a better life seems cruel and unnecessarily harsh.

Heifer InternationalStatement by CEO Pierre Ferrari

“To completely end the global scourges of hunger and poverty – and we are getting closer – there cannot be room for hatred, violence, racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, homophobia or religious intolerance. There are genuine differences of opinions and many strong feelings on many issues, yet we are all humans seeking peace, happiness and security. We will continue our work to fulfill our vision to empower communities to lead lives of dignity and self-reliance.

“We are, of course, also concerned about the potential immediate impact that recent policy changes may have on our employees around the globe. We will continue to offer our full support and care to ensure their safety and dignity along with our support to project partners and the communities with which we work.”

HIAS – Call to sign open letter to Trump

“We are outraged to learn about the Executive Orders that target refugees and immigrants who seek safety and freedom in the U.S. Just days after assuming the highest office in our country, your policies abandon some of our most basic values as Americans.

“Restricting admission of foreigners from war-torn countries will not make us safer–instead it will deprive refugees of hope, safety, and the opportunity to restart their lives. As a result, families will continue to be torn apart, instead of brought together. The policy will send a dangerous message to the rest of the world that the U.S. is afraid of people who belong to certain religions, races, or nationalities. Simply put, this policy is unconscionable.”

Human Rights Watchstatement by Grace Meng, senior U.S. researcher

“Trump’s latest executive order is likely to hurt the people most in need: those fleeing violence and terrorism – and on Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less. The decision to drastically curtail the refugee program will abandon tens of thousands to the risk of persecution or worse and cede American leadership on a vitally important issue. … Today’s executive order doesn’t bother to hide the religious animus that underpins it. Such policies convey fear instead of courage and will send a message to leaders around the world that broad, discriminatory, and isolationist actions are acceptable.”

Institute for Peace and JusticeStatement by Andrew Blum, executive director

“At the Kroc School’s Institute for Peace and Justice, a core part of our mission is to support peacemakers around the world. Each of these countries listed in the Executive Order has amazing peacemakers that I have met personally. Each of these countries has peacemakers that we have brought to San Diego as part of our Women PeaceMakers program, or may bring in the future. These peacemakers are not just our allies at the Institute for Peace and Justice, they are not just allies in the cause of building peace. They are the allies of the United States. However you define U.S. national security, these peacemakers are supporting it. They are doing the hard, dangerous work to counter violent extremism and to build peaceful, inclusive societies. They are often doing this work where almost no one else can.

“The Executive Order, if it stands, punishes them.”

International Medical Corps – fundraising

International Organization for Migration and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugeesoffer to collaborate

“IOM and UNHCR remain committed to working with the U.S. administration towards the goal we share to ensure safe and secure resettlement and immigration programs.

“We strongly believe that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.

“We will continue to engage actively and constructively with the U.S. government, as we have done for decades, to protect those who need it most, and to offer our support on asylum and migration matters.”

International Rescue Committee – call to action and donate

“With more people than ever before displaced worldwide by violence, it’s critical that we urge our elected leaders to oppose these measures.

“With a proud tradition of welcome, America has long been a beacon of hope for the persecuted. We must show our elected officials that we believe in a country that stands for freedom and stands up to fear.”

Jesuit Refugee Serviceopen letter

“Our country’s welcome of these newcomers expresses who we are as a people. It is a sign of our commitment to the rights of refugees to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution. It reflects our desire to respond to the call of the Jewish and Christian scriptures to welcome strangers among us, especially those in danger or great need. It is rooted in the recognition that all men and women possess a shared human dignity and, in the eyes of faith, are sons and daughters of a loving Creator who calls us together as one human family.

“Though essential for those most in need, asylum and resettlement can assist fewer than 1 percent of the world’s refugees. Most will remain in temporary exile until they can return home.

“This reality places a tremendous strain on the very poor countries that host the vast majority of refugees. It is essential that U.S. assistance to these host countries be continued and indeed increased.”

Medical Teams Internationalblog post on refugee myths

“MYTH: Refugees are Terrorists. REALITY: While there are extremely rare examples of terrorism linked to refugees, the vast, vast majority of the 65 million refugees in the world today are not terrorists – they are innocent victims of injustice and war. They are mothers and daughters struggling for dignity, fathers and sons desperate for the smallest crack of opportunity. Most of them are waiting out conflict in neighboring countries, waiting to go home. This is where Medical Teams International is working today.”

Mennonite Central Committeestatement

“In our society, rejection of the immigrant – ‘the other’ – still runs deep, whether due to fear, ignorance, racism or selfishness. By building walls and turning away refugees we ignore Christ’s call to care for those in need and to love the stranger among us as we love ourselves.

“Building border walls focuses on the symptoms rather than the causes of migration. As long as poverty, lack of opportunity and violent conflict push people to come to the U.S. – and, as long as opportunities, safety and family members pull people here – there will be migration. When the legal routes are either not available or severely restricted, as they are in the U.S., people will come whatever way they can. And no wall will stop them.”

Mercy Corpspetition to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

“The United States has long been a leader in providing freedom, hope and safe refuge for vulnerable people and those fleeing violence and persecution around the world, no matter their race, religion or nationality. With more than 65 million people around the world forced to flee their homes, the need for U.S. leadership is greater now than ever before in our history.

“We must take action now to ensure that the United States remains a place of safe refuge for the world’s most vulnerable families.”

Norwegian Refugee Council USA –  statement by Director Joel Charny

“The president’s rhetoric on the campaign trail consistently exaggerated the threat that the U.S. refugee resettlement program poses to the American people. The vetting process through the resettlement program is thorough, taking up to two years, with multiple checks to ensure that those arriving pose no danger. Over the past decades refugees have become a vibrant part of communities across the United States; they are our neighbors, colleagues and friends. Distorting this reality to prey on the American public’s fears and concerns scores political points at the expense of innocent people.”

ONE Campaign – Call to action on social media

Open Society Foundation – Social media posts about refugees and fight against EO

Partners in Healthstatement

“Partners In Health is unequivocally committed to supporting our staff around the world who may be affected by the Executive Order banning immigration to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries. … We firmly believe this Executive Order should be immediately reversed, and we will support efforts to accomplish that goal.”

Population Services International – tweet

Refugees InternationalStatement, calls to contact Congress and call to donate

“The Executive Order also has disturbing implications for international refugee policies. Today, the world needs more support and protection for refugees, not less. At a U.N. summit last September, world leaders met to forge mechanisms to increase responsibility-sharing and cooperation in responding to refugee crises. This Executive Order weakens U.S. leadership in that effort by withdrawing from the commitments made at the summit. Further, it sends a potentially damaging signal to countries that are actually hosting the bulk of the world’s refugees, countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Jordan, and Lebanon…

“No one chooses to be a refugee. The Executive Order the president signed today will only serve to punish innocent men, women, and children who only seek safety, peace, and a better life. We must fight to protect them and the long-treasured principles of openness and freedom upon which the United States was proudly founded.”

Save the Children – petition letter to member of Congress

“The overwhelming number of the 65 million people fleeing war and persecution are women and children. These children have been terrorized; they are not terrorists. This ban puts their safety and their lives at great risk.

“Refugees already go through extensive vetting. A refugee’s identity is checked against law enforcement and intelligence databases of at least five federal agencies, a process that takes nearly two years. If there is any doubt about who a refugee is, he or she is not admitted to the United States.

“Welcoming refugees sends a strong message to groups that want to do us harm – the United States is still a leader for liberty in the world.”

UNICEF USA – Fundraising for child refugees

World Visionopen letter to Trump and Pence

“The Bible teaches us that each person – including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier – is made in the Image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us. While the U.S. has in recent years received only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees annually, we believe the refugee resettlement program provides a lifeline to these uniquely vulnerable individuals and a vital opportunity for our churches to live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to make disciples of all nations, and to practice hospitality.

“Our faith also compels us to be concerned with the well-being of families. Most of the refugees admitted to the U.S. in recent years are family reunification cases, coming to join a relative already in the country. A temporary moratorium will unnecessarily delay families whose cases already have been screened and approved from being reunited.”

No statement

Groups providing relief and aid to Syrian refugees are denoted with a star.

American Red Cross
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Catholic Medical Mission Board
ChildFund International
Children International
Compassion International*
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Cross International
Direct Relief*
Food for the Poor
Ford Foundation
Habitat for Humanity
Helen Keller International
Map International*
Project Hope
One Acre Fund
Operation Blessing*
Rotary International*
Samaritan’s Purse*
Smile Train
Task Force for Global Health

Note: Organizations listed are the leading nonprofit organizations that focus on humanitarianism. They include aid groups, foundations and advocacy groups. The list is informed in part by the Forbes 100 biggest U.S. NGOs index. Let us know if any organization is missing or issued a new statement.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]