Clinton Silent as Number of Worldwide Refugees Reaches Record Level

Failed to address crises as secretary of state that resulted in nearly 60 million displaced persons, critics say

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Hillary Clinton’s policies as secretary of state failed to address several crises that have produced a record number of displaced persons worldwide, according to a Republican group that also noted her lack of a commemoration for World Refugee Day.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report last week that there were 59.5 million people who were forcibly displaced at the end of 2014, the largest number ever recorded. More than half of the displaced persons were children. Refugee levels spiked in the Middle East, Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa, all regions where Clinton’s policies faced criticism during her tenure as secretary of state.

America Rising PAC, a GOP opposition research firm, pointed out that Clinton—the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president—did not make a statement on World Refugee Day, this past Saturday.

"Secretary Clinton’s silence on World Refugee Day was extremely telling," Colin Reed, executive director of America Rising, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. "Under her failed leadership at the State Department, the world became less stable and more dangerous, and her policies led to the global unrest that has contributed to the number of refugees reaching record levels."

The UNHCR said one of the main contributors to the burgeoning refugee total is the four-year civil war in Syria, where an average of 42,500 people were displaced each day of last year. Syria has the world’s most internally displaced people (7.6 million) as well as refugees that have fled to other countries (3.88 million).

In March 2011, Clinton said the United States did not intervene in Syria because of the perception that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was a "reformer." Critics later derided Clinton for the comment when Assad escalated his crack down on the country’s opposition and began to kill his own people, including with chemical weapons. The civil war has claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Clinton reportedly supported efforts to arm more moderate rebels early in the civil war but failed to persuade President Obama to do so.

Terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), capitalized on the chaos in the Syrian war to expand their territory. In June 2014, IS launched an offensive across the Syrian border into western and northern Iraq, seizing the key city of Mosul and eventually other cities in Iraq’s Anbar province. More than 3.3 million Iraqis have been displaced by IS.

Last June, Clinton said she "could not have predicted the extent to which [IS] could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create an Islamist state." Intelligence officials have said their efforts to monitor IS were made more difficult by the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011. Clinton largely supported the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq and dismissed criticism of the Obama administration, which was unable to secure a status of forces agreement permitting a residual troop presence.

In Ukraine, the conflict between the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatists has displaced 1.2 million people in the country and resulted in more than 6,000 deaths since last April. Clinton infamously presented a "reset" button to Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, in 2009 to promote more cooperation between the two countries, though the Russian word on the button actually translated into "overcharged." Amid Russia’s ongoing destabilization of Ukraine and continued support for Assad, the reset policy is now widely regarded as a misguided move. Nonetheless, Clinton said last year that the reset "worked" on issues such as nuclear nonproliferation and the transport of supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Additionally, the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram has forced more than 1.5 million people, including 800,000 children, to abandon their homes. Hundreds of Nigerian teachers and schoolchildren were killed last year. Despite pressure from some U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, Clinton declined to name Boko Haram a terrorist group while she was secretary of state. Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) has speculated that Clinton’s decision might be related to Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian construction magnate and Clinton Foundation donor with substantial business interests in the country.

A Clinton spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on World Refugee Day and her policies as secretary of state.

Daniel Wiser   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Daniel Wiser is an assistant editor of National Affairs. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May 2013, where he studied Journalism and Political Science and was the State & National Editor for The Daily Tar Heel. He hails from Waxhaw, N.C., and currently lives in Washington, D.C. His Twitter handle is @TheWiserChoice.

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