Speech on refugees
Roger Winter, a government official in immigration services, challenged both the popular conception of refugees and recent U.S. refugee policy yesterday evening.
About 35 students and professors listened to Winter's speech titled "Is the Door Closing?" in 105 Dartmouth Hall.
"Refugees are a human rights issue, not an immigration issue," Winter said.
Refugees are a subset of the immigrant population who have fled their native countries because of persecution. "The concept is not one of people moving -- it is of fleeing ... triggered by violence and human rights abuse," he said. This violence is perpetrated by the refugees' nations' governments.
He called on the U.S. government to continue to aid refugees despite the Cold War end, and to enact doctrines that will help the world community resolve government abuse.
"The Cold War is gone. As a result we are questioning what our role is in humanitarian affairs ... The self-evident rationale for doing what we did is gone," Winter said.
The Convention on the Status of Refugees formed the legal foundation for dealing with refugees in 1951. But the convention is from a time when the world was divided between the two competing superpowers, he said.
"The U.S. has been demeaning the concept of asylum for the past number of years," he said. "We must make our diverse society work for the lesson it presents to the political world -- that there is equality before the law," he said.