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SFRC Committee Advances Shaheen-Led Bills to Establish U.S. Strategy toward Black Sea Region, Address Humanitarian And Security Crises in Syria Camps

Government and Politics

December 7, 2022


(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, announced that two of her bipartisan bills cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. The committee advanced her legislation with Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), the Black Sea Security Act, which directs the administration to develop a strategy toward the Black Sea Region, and the committee also passed her bill with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Syria Detainee and Displaced Persons Act, which addresses the escalating humanitarian and security situations in camps housing ISIS-affiliated detainees and displaced persons.

On the Black Sea Security Act:

“The Black Sea region is a crucial geopolitical inflection point in Europe, especially in the context of Putin’s war in Ukraine. The United States needs a comprehensive strategy to address the problems of today and to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow,” said Senator Shaheen, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation. “I appreciate the bipartisan support for my bill with Senator Romney, which directs the administration to provide such a strategy so we can strengthen our partnerships with NATO and Black Sea partners to counter Putin’s escalating aggression in Europe, which we know extends beyond Ukraine’s borders. I urge Senate leadership to bring our bill to the floor for full Senate consideration swiftly.”

“As Vladimir Putin continues to wage his unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine, it has become clear that the United States must have both a strategy and presence in the Black Sea region,” said Senator Romney. “I’m proud that my legislation with Senator Shaheen to require the Biden Administration to develop a strategy to strengthen the coordination between the U.S., NATO, and our Black Sea partners has passed out of committee. A coordinated Black Sea strategy would help increase security, support economic prosperity, and promote democracy—and I will continue to work with my colleagues to get this legislation across the finish line.”

Read more on the Black Sea Security Act here.

Shaheen, also a member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, helps lead action in the U.S. Senate in support of Ukraine in response to Vladimir Putin’s belligerence, which also threatens the stability and security of Eastern Europe and NATO allies. Shaheen has been very engaged on U.S. policy toward the Black Sea Region for years, stemming back to her participation as an election monitor in Georgia with Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) in 2012. She’s been vocal in the U.S. Senate about the urgency of prioritizing the region, which is a crucial inflection point amid Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine. Shortly before Putin’s invasion, Shaheen and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) led a bipartisan delegation to Ukraine, where they met with President Zelenskyy and members of his administration. Before the Shaheen-Portman congressional delegation visit in January, Shaheen led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, last June. As co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, which she re-started with Senator Tillis in 2018, Shaheen has led bipartisan efforts in the Senate in support of the transatlantic Alliance and as Finland and Sweden seek accession into NATO.

On the Syria Detainee and Displaced Persons Act:

“The humanitarian and security crises brewing in ISIS detainee and displaced persons camps in Syria demand our attention and action today. While we face numerous national security threats from adversaries around the globe, if the conditions in these camps go unchecked, we risk a resurgence of ISIS. We cannot allow terrorists to turn back the clock and resurrect their campaign of terror that tore through the region, of which the aftershocks are still being felt today, and viciously took the lives of scores of civilians, including Americans like James Foley,” said Senator Shaheen. “My legislation with Senator Graham builds on my previous work to task a U.S. official responsible for overseeing camps and detention facilities by elevating the seniority of the coordinator position and expanding their mandate to ensure it comprehensively addresses the systemic problems facing the camps. Furthermore, our legislation directs the administration to develop a much-needed strategy on how the U.S. government will work toward addressing the humanitarian and security challenges at the camps, with the intent of one day closing them all together. We must ensure that we are focused on preventing an ISIS resurgence by confronting the dire conditions in the camps as soon as possible. The full Senate should consider our bill immediately.”

“I’m very pleased that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Syria Detainee and Displaced Persons Act, a bill designed to get ahead of the growing problem at the Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, in a bipartisan fashion,” said Senator Graham. “Senator Shaheen and I have monitored this issue closely, and this legislation is designed to prevent a complete breakdown of the Al- Hol camp, and other similarly situated camps in Syria, that would lead to the rise of ISIS and a humanitarian disaster. This is a great step in the right direction.”

Read more on the Syria Detainee and Displaced Persons Act here.

Senator Shaheen has long led efforts to address the national security and humanitarian crises caused by the rise and subsequent fall of ISIS. Shaheen created the Syria Study Group to complete a comprehensive assessment of the conflict in Syria and ways to address the consequence of the violence. One of the Study Group’s recommendations included the establishment of the ISIS Detainee Coordinator position Shaheen created in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. In 2018, she and Senator Graham traveled to Syria and Iraq, where they visited the detainee and displaced persons camps and met with officials on ways to address security and humanitarian needs. Senator Graham traveled to Syria again in July.