Top US diplomat for refugees to leave post

Rohingya refugees wait in line to receive humanitarian aid in the Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 4, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Top US diplomat for refugees to leave post

WASHINGTON: The US diplomat in charge of refugee issues plans to leave his post within days, becoming the third senior US official to depart or be re-assigned from refugee work in recent weeks.
Simon Henshaw, the acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, told colleagues in the refugee sector in an email seen by Reuters that he will be leaving the bureau at the end of next week.
In an interview on Saturday evening, Henshaw told Reuters he was leaving his position in a routine professional move unrelated to the Trump administration’s policies, which have curtailed refugee admissions. A State Department spokeswoman also said Henshaw’s move was routine.
Henshaw said his post at the Population, Refugees and Migration bureau had been his longest assignment in his 33-year tenure as a career foreign service officer.
“It very honestly had to do with the fact that I’d felt I’d spent enough time,” Henshaw told Reuters. “I’m used to moving on every two or three years.”
Prior to being named acting assistant secretary at the start of the Trump administration, he served as the principal deputy assistant secretary since July 2013.
The bureau will be run from Jan. 22 onward by Carol O’Connell, the deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, according to her State Department biography.
“In a world where the number of refugees and displaced persons continues to rise, I think we should all be proud (of) the good that we have done and the help that we have provided to so many,” Henshaw wrote in the Saturday email.
Henshaw is the latest senior US official working on refugee issues to leave a job or be sidelined as the Trump administration reshapes US refugee admissions.
Since taking office last year, President Donald Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country, paused the refugee program entirely for four months, instituted stricter vetting requirements and quit negotiations on a voluntary pact to deal with global migration.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Lawrence Bartlett, previously the head of the refugee admissions office at the State Department, had been given a temporary re-assignment in the State Department office handling Freedom of Information Act requests.
Earlier this month, Barbara Strack, chief of the Refugee Affairs Division at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, under the Department of Homeland Security, said she would retire in January.


Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

Empty seats of the United States delegation are pictured one day after the US announced their withdraw during a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 35 min 32 sec ago
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Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal

GENEVA: Diplomats from across the globe defended the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday after the US withdrew from a body it branded an anti-Israel “cesspool.”
Slovenian ambassador Vojislav Suc, who currently holds the council’s rotating presidency and has been pushing a faltering reform drive, described the Geneva-based chamber as the best place to trigger action on dangerous rights crises.
“Let me say it very clearly, if human rights issues are not discussed here, in this very room, they have little chance to be dealt with meaningfully anywhere else,” he told the council’s 38th session, hours after Washington announced its pullout.
Suc further praised the 47-member council as the “only intergovernmental body responding to human rights issues and situations worldwide.”
Once he receives formal notification of the US withdrawal, Suc said he would arrange for the American seat to be removed and work with the General Assembly to elect a replacement member. China, which has on multiple occasions voiced support for multilateral institutions abandoned by US President Donald Trump, portrayed the council as “a major body... to promote the realization of human rights.”
“All delegations attach great importance to this body,” said Chinese ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yu Jianhua.
China currently sits on the council and rights groups have repeatedly criticized Beijing for seeking to stifle criticism of its own conduct.
The EU assured that it “remains steadfastly and reliably committed to the Human Rights Council,” and said it would continue to try to fix the body’s problems despite the US withdrawal.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN ambassador Nikki Haley announced the decision on Wednesday, making good on a threat Haley made in Geneva a year ago.
They said their calls for change, notably to fix “hypocrisy” and “unrelenting bias” against Israel were ignored.
Membership of the council, established in 2006 to replace the disgraced Human Rights Commission, has long been controversial.
Current members include Burundi, the Philippines and Venezuela — all nations accused of massive abuses against civilians.
But the main US objection was the council’s Agenda Item 7, which mandates discussion of Israel at each of the three annual sessions.
Israel is the only country recorded as a dedicated agenda item.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal, experts and diplomats have noted that without US pushback, resolutions approving investigations of Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territories could multiply.