Biden raises refugee admissions cap to 125k from 15k

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday raised the refugee admissions ceiling to the United States from 15,000 to 125,000.

President Biden made the announcement in remarks he delivered at the State Department.

Former President Donald Trump had drastically reduced the refugee admissions cap to 15,000.

More broadly, the President said his administration will focus on diplomacy and on building alliances in the world, effectively killing Donald Trump’s “America First” policy that in reality meant “America Alone.”

“America is back. Diplomacy is back. It’s the center of our foreign policy,” President Biden said in his first major foreign policy speech.

The president asked Myanmar military to relinquish power and release detained civilians immediately, and asked Vladimir Putin of Russia to release opposition figure Alexei Nalvany immediately.

Biden also announced that the United States will be ending support for offensive operations in Yemen where human rights organizations have accused Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of committing atrocities and possible war crimes with American weapons.

Rights and advocacy groups backed Biden’s decision to end support for military operations in Yemen.

“President Biden’s expected decision to end offensive U.S. military support in Yemen is a momentous victory. We, along with all those who have for years fought U.S. complicity in the catastrophic war in Yemen, are thrilled that this day is finally here. We commend the Biden administration for following through on its campaign promise,” said Win Without War Policy Director Kate Kizer.

Kizer added: “Today’s announcement would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of progressive leaders, Yemeni advocates, and activists across the country and from around the world. It was only through this organizing – in the U.S., but also across borders with activists in Yemen and European capitals – that we were able to expose the true nature of the U.S. military in the war in Yemen and its devastating human costs. This is what it looks like when the people mobilize transnationally to fight the war machine and craft a foreign policy that puts human wellbeing before arms industry profits.

“Today’s action is only a step toward finally ending the destructive U.S. role in Yemen. The reversal of a destructive policy does not, on its own, constitute peace, healing, or justice for the Yemenis who have long suffered as a result of U.S. intervention. The time is now for the United States to commit to investing in the robust multilateral diplomacy needed to find an inclusive settlement to this conflict. We won’t stop organizing until the U.S. ends all of its harmful policies towards Yemen and works to build accountability for the atrocities committed.

“Today’s announcement is a sign of the power of our movement for a more peaceful, progressive U.S. foreign policy. This is only the beginning. Now is the time for a clean break from the past and for the U.S. to finally commit to seeking positive peace in Yemen.”

Philippe Nassif, the advocacy director for Amnesty International for the Middle East and North Africa said as the conflict in Yemen enters its seventh year, it is vital for the United States to commit to prioritizing the safety of civilians in the country. 

“Central to these efforts will be stopping the flow of arms  from the United States into situations where they will be used to commit war crimes and grave human rights violations. Halting the sale of precision guided munitions is the first big step. The human tragedy of United States arms sales is immense pain and suffering inflicted on civilians in Yemen that must not be continued to be swept aside, and crimes committed with arms sold by the United States must be investigated.

“Paveway guided missiles were found by Amnesty International to have been used to commit war crimes in Yemen. All arms sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia should be blocked lest they be used to commit further war crimes in Yemen,” Nassif said.

Last month, Amnesty International welcomed Biden’s temporary freeze of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE, citing widespread human rights abuses, including possible war crimes.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince 

In 2018, the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey.

But rather than punish the murderer, former President Donald Trump rewarded the Saudi government with an arms sales contract, citing financial gains for the United States and downplaying the horrible crime.

Philippe Nassif, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, said President Biden’s decision to freeze arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE represents “a welcome relief in an otherwise shameful chapter of history.”

Almost six years of conflict in Yemen, fueled by irresponsible arms transfers, have left 14 million Yemenis in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

“The suspension of arms sales by the United States is a step in the right direction and ups the pressure on European countries, most notably the UK and France, to follow suit and stop fueling the human misery in Yemen,” Nassif said in a statement.

“For years, we have been warning Western states that they risk complicity in war crimes as they continue to enable the Saudi-led coalition with arms. The Biden administration is finally acknowledging the disastrous effects of these continued sales, and puts to shame other states that continue to ignore the mountain of evidence of probable war crimes collected by Yemenis, the United Nations, and human rights organization over the course of the past six years.”

The international human rights organization recalled that since 2015, the Saudi and UAE-led Coalition carried out “scores of indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes on civilians and civilians’ objects, hitting homes, schools, hospitals, markets, mosques, weddings and funerals.”

Amnesty International said it has documented over 40 coalition air strikes that appear to have violated international humanitarian law, many of which amount to war crimes. These have resulted in more than 500 civilian deaths and 400 civilian injured.

In relation to the UAE, Amnesty International said it has collected extensive evidence that show weapons are not only being used by the UAE forces in Yemen, but are also being passed on to completely unaccountable militias, some of which stand accused of war crimes.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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