U.S. To Increase Number Of Syrian Refugees Accepted Into The Country

The U.S. is set to ramp up its contribution to dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, but there's a lot more we can do.

Syrian Refugees

One of the major international stories of the past several weeks has been the flood of refugees heading towards Europe to escape the civil war in Syria. On a daily basis, thousands of men, women, and children have made their way across the Meditteranean and to the shores of Europe, with vast numbers of them arriving in nations like Serbia and then trying to make their way to one of the nations that is part of the European Union. Many have not made it all, with overloaded boats capsizing while at sea, and other migrants reaching the shore only to die in the effort to get to land. For those who have made onshore, the reception has not always been welcoming. Many of the nations in which they have initially arrived have essentially transported to their border and sent them on their way. Hungary, which has received a large amount of the refugees trying to make their way to Germany and elsewhere, has begun imposing restrictions on migrants including erecting a border fence, which has proved futile in stemming the tide of migrants, and using tear gas and water cannons on refugees and government officials have demeaned the refugees by tossing food at them. Additionally, right-wing political leaders in the country have protested against the migrants and provided scenes such as the one the world saw earlier this month showing a Hungarian journalist linked to a right-wing outlet physically stomping on migrants as they tried to made their way through a border crossing. Hungary’s Prime Minister has said that the policies are designed to discourage the refugees from crossing into Hungary, and their seems to be little sympathy for them in the country. The migrant crisis has also led to calls for other nations to accept these war refugees, including the United States.

Two weeks ago, the Obama Administration announced that they would increase the number of refugees the U.S. would accept up to 10,000, a significant increase from the 1500 Syrian refugees that have been accepted by the United States since the Syrian civil war started four years ago. It quickly became clear, though, that the response from Washington was being overwhelmed by the scope of the crisis. Meanwhile, the migrants keep coming and Europe is quickly getting overwhelmed itself. In an effort to deal with that problem, today Secretary of State John Kerry announced a significant increase in the U.S. effort to aid and resettle these refugees:

The Obama administration will increase the number of refugees the United States is willing to accept to 100,000 annually in 2017, a significant increase over the current worldwide cap of 70,000, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.

The announcement came as Mr. Kerry conferred here with German officials on the wave of migrants that has swamped Europe and met with Syrian refugees who are seeking asylum in Europe.

Under the new plan, the American limit on refugee visas would be increased to 85,000 in the fiscal year 2016. The cap would then rise to 100,000 the following year.

Mr. Kerry said that the United States would explore ways to increase the limit beyond 100,000 in future years while carrying out background checks to ensure that the refugees have not been infiltrated by terrorists.

“This step is in keeping with America’s best tradition as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope,” Mr. Kerry said in his prepared remarks. “And it will be accompanied by continued financial contributions to the humanitarian effort — not only from the U.S. government, but from the American people. The need is enormous, but we are determined to answer the call.”

Among the beneficiaries of the new policy will be Syrians. The United States has taken in about 1,500 Syrian refugees since the conflict began more than four years ago, while Europe has been absorbing hundreds of thousands.

The White House said earlier this month that it would take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, and the administration’s decision to raise the ceiling for all refugees worldwide in 2016 will allow for that increase. Raising the worldwide ceiling to 100,000 in 2017 could enable the United States to accept even more Syrians, though American officials did not provide an estimate.

Americans officials said that the Syrian refugees accepted by the United States over the next year would be drawn from a list of more than 16,000 that the United Nations prepared before the current influx of migrants in Europe.

Still, the steps that Mr. Kerry announced are much less than that some former American officials and refugee experts have recommended.

Last Thursday, more than 20 former senior officials, including some who served in the State Department and Pentagon during the Obama administration, urged the White House to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees.

“We urge that you announce support for a refugees admissions goal of 100,000 Syrian refugees on an extraordinary basis, over and above the current worldwide refugee ceiling of 70,000,” they wrote in a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders. “With some four million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries and hundreds of thousands of Syrian asylum seekers in Europe, this would be a responsible exercise in burden sharing.”

That letter was signed by some prominent veterans of the Obama administration: Michèle A. Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense; Derek Chollet, who served as an assistant defense secretary; Harold H. Koh, who served as the State Department’s legal adviser; and Eric P. Schwartz, who was a senior refugee official in the State Department.

David Miliband, the former foreign secretary of Britain who now heads the International Rescue Committee, has called on the United States to resettle 65,000 Syrians by the end of 2016.

Mr. Obama has the authority to increase the refugee cap, but Congress will need to approve additional funding. State Department officials have said that it would cost $1.1 billion to accept and resettle 70,000 refugees in 2015.

This move seems to be the least that the United States can do in response to this crisis. As it is, the fact that we have only taken in 1,500 Syrian refugees since the start of the civil war is atrociously absurd on a humanitarian level. Between them, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have taken in some four million refugees in that same period. Germany has said it is prepared to accept as any as 800,000 refugees in the coming months and years on top of the roughly 3.5 million already in the country. When the government of Iceland announced that the island nation would take in 50 refugees, some 10,000 citizens signed a petition urging the government to do more, with many of the offering to put up refugees in their own home.  It hasn’t been easy for many of these nations to accept refugees. Syria’s neighbors in particular have been overwhelmed with the rush of refugees and the United Nations has been brought in to help the situation. In some parts of Europe, such as Britain and France, there has been some resistance to taking in even small numbers of refugees. For the most part, though, many nations in Europe have stepped up to the plate to help these people, most of whom left Syria to avoid war and because the homes they lived have been destroyed by one side or another.

All of these nations that have taken in refugees are smaller than the United States, some of them much smaller, and they have limited resources to house and help care for these people, but they have done it anyway. Given that, it seems clear that the United States can and should do much more to abide by its international obligations to help these war refugees. In some cases, that help can come in the form of material aid and personnel to assist nations in Europe with the processing and treatment of the refugees that have arrived in their borders. Beyond that, though, it seems clear that the United States needs to do its part to give these people a home, even if it just a temporary home until the war ends in their home country. The moves announced by Secretary Kerry are a good start, but more should be done. Unfortunately, given the fact that we’re in the middle of a Presidential campaign in which immigration has become a huge issues it may be difficult to convince Congress to do what needs to be done here. However, if Republicans like Ted Cruz really believe what they say about the importance of America’s role in the world, then it seems clear that there are few immediate crises in the world right now more important than this.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Campaign 2016, Europe, Middle East, National Security, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Syria is a sign of the times. While politics and civil war are a factor the main force is global climate change which will result is mass migrations. Much of the middle east is suffering from a long drought. We will also see the impact here in the the US where many coastal cites will become part of the seabed. In the desert SW places like Phoenix will see massive out migrations because of a shortage of water. In Arizona they don’t have enough water to cool the power plants that cool the power plants that supply the electricity for the needed air conditioning.




    0



    0
  2. edmondo says:

    This move seems to be the least that the United States can do in response to this crisis.

    Especially since we are responsible for this freaking mess to begin with. How about someday we elect a president who doesn’t want to rule an empire?




    0



    0
  3. Lounsbury says:

    @edmondo:
    Whatever the sins of the USA in the Middle East (and they are legion), the USA is not really responsible for the Syrian mess. There’s no realistic scenario – ex the Clan Assed somehow deciding not to act in the manner they were accustomed to for decades – of Syria not becoming a multi-sided civil war.

    Nor was the USA responsible for the uprising.

    There’s some indirect responsibility re DAESH, but sans DAESH this refugree crisis would still occur, the civil war would hardly look nicer or less horrid sans DAESH.




    0



    0
  4. Paul L. says:

    A lot of young men in that picture of poor staving women and children refugees above.




    0



    0
  5. Just Me says:

    How much of this economics and how much is due to turmoil?

    I’m not opposed to taking in refugees but I want them vetted and would like to see preference given to actual families and not 15 year old single men.

    I would also one to see more pressure put on the gulf states that are predominately Muslim to take in these refugees. There is no reason for Europe and the US and Canada to be accepting refugees by the millions while these countries do nothing.




    0



    0
  6. Just Me says:

    15 should be 25.




    0



    0
  7. michael reynolds says:

    This is kind and humane and decent and completely unrealistic if it extends over the long haul.

    What if this isn’t the end of the displacements, but just the beginning? What if a larger country, like Algeria, fails? What if sub-Saharan Africa gets into the act? What about the ‘Stans? If you can walk from Syria to Germany How do we rationalize taking in economic migrants and genuine refugees from a war zone 5,000 miles away while talking ethnic cleansing of Mexicans and Guatemalans? What do we plan to do if Mexico fails as a state, which is not impossible.

    Aleppo to Munich is 3100 kilometres, just under 2000 miles. Know what else is within 2000 miles of Europe? All of Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Libya and Egypt. Egypt for f-ck’s sake, with a population of 80 million people and a government primed and ready for civil war. The equivalent distance for us is all the way down to the border of Costa Rica.

    We need to think this through ideologically, morally and pragmatically. Neither we nor Europe is capable of absorbing everyone who can walk to the border. It is not realistic and it will have the effect of strengthening nativist parties here and in Europe.




    0



    0
  8. Just Me says:

    And they can start by giving asylum to Iraqi and Syrian Christians fleeing the area-and letting these guys go:

    http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2015/August/US-Welcomes-Iraqi-Christian-Refugees-with-Jail-Time/

    I’m yet to understand how. Hristian endo not qualify for asylum given they are being persecuted by ISIS.




    0



    0
  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Just Me:

    It’s not fair to say Saudi Arabia is doing nothing, they’re busy pushing the religious extremism that simultaneously feeds anti-western hatred and Sunni v. Shia hatred and makes all this possible. That’s not nothing.




    0



    0
  10. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We need to think this through ideologically, morally and pragmatically. Neither we nor Europe is capable of absorbing everyone who can walk to the border. It is not realistic and it will have the effect of strengthening nativist parties here and in Europe.

    But Europe isn’t going have to. 75% of the Syrians displaced are still in Syria, and of those who have left the country, only about 5-6% of those (2% of all refugees) have fled to Europe. People who flee, generally stay in their own country, and don’t travel very far if they do leave.

    And Europe would be able to absorb a lot more than 250,000 Syrians.




    0



    0
  11. stephanie says:

    I absolutely believe the US must take in refugees due to such failure of our administration to take action to stop the progress of ISIS and other terrorist groups- thus many nations are crumbling and the result is millions of people fleeing for their very lives.
    For the refugees, this is a very desperate situation and while I cannot solve this problem, I can offer real hope in the midst of their crisis- http://thereiseternalhope.blogspot.com




    0



    0
  12. michael reynolds says:

    @stephanie:

    I’m sorry, but how exactly is ISIS our responsibility? Can you explain that? As @Lounsbury points out, we may have helped create the ISIS problem, but we did not create the Assad regime, nor did we create sectarian hatreds, nor are we responsible for the Syrian civil war.

    And you link to some Christian propaganda? That’s helpful, is it? Jesus is going to solve this problem? Well, Jesus has a piss poor record of helping out in a crisis. We’d need a lot fewer Marines and a lot fewer NGO’s if supernatural help was available.




    0



    0
  13. michael reynolds says:

    @PJ:

    What guarantee do you have to offer that it won’t go from tens of thousands to millions? Because that’s the problem: we are sending the message that if you can reach Munich your troubles are over. And there is one hell of a lot of potential trouble just to the south and east of Europe. There are 42 million people in Ukraine, do you think if that particular shit hits the fan Europe can absorb ten percent of that population? Let alone Egypt’s?

    Like I said, we need to think a bit more about this, because no matter how welcoming Germany is right now, that is not going to be a long-term solution. The German population won’t allow it. The barbed wire is already going up.




    0



    0
  14. bill says:

    they aren’t our problem and they won’t mesh well with our values, deal with it. sure, obama’s dreaded “line in the sand” didn’t help but these folks don’t like anything about us aside from our free country.look at it another way- they’re abandoning their homeland instead of fighting for it. the only thing muslims hate more than each other is non-muslims, for proof- look to the east.




    0



    0
  15. Rafer Janders says:

    However, if Republicans like Ted Cruz really believe what they say about the importance of America’s role in the world,

    Short answer: they don’t.




    0



    0
  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Whatever the sins of the USA in the Middle East (and they are legion), the USA is not really responsible for the Syrian mess.

    Many of the refugees are from Iraq. The US is surely responsible for that.

    Moreover, there’s a fair point to be made that ten plus years of war in neighboring Iraq, the refugees it caused to flood into Syria, and the tens of thousands of battle-hardened jihadis the war created, certainly did destabilize Syria and helped light the spark for the revolt.




    0



    0
  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @Just Me:

    Give me your tired, your poor, your thoroughly vetted…..




    0



    0
  18. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m sorry, but how exactly is ISIS our responsibility? Can you explain that?

    We attacked and invaded Iraq, overthrowing Saddam, who did more than anyone to hold down the Islamists in Iraq. Then we disbanded the Iraqi Army, throwing many of the senior officers into resistance guerilla bands and holding others in prison camps. It was in those camps and resistance cells that some of those Sunni officers, radicalized, met and decided to form ISIS, and then ISIS was able to attract support from Sunni elements in Iraq that were being oppressed by the Shiite central government that we helped set up and support.

    That’s how it’s our responsibility.




    0



    0
  19. Just Me says:

    Give me your tired, your poor is a poem by Emma Lazerus not a part of the constitution or an established immigration policy.




    0



    0
  20. DrDaveT says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    It was in those camps and resistance cells that some of those Sunni officers, radicalized, met and decided to form ISIS, and then ISIS was able to attract support from Sunni elements in Iraq that were being oppressed by the Shiite central government that we helped set up and support.

    Not to mention that the power vacuum we created in Iraq provided a geographic location for ISIL to seize and declare the Caliphate. I can’t see that happening without our helpful intervention.




    0



    0
  21. edmondo says:

    @Lounsbury:

    the USA is not really responsible for the Syrian mess…




    0



    0
  22. Tyrell says:

    @Lounsbury: I certainly agree. And I am not against these people coming here. The problem is how will they be assimilated ? Is the plan for them to remain here, or return to their country when things turn around ?
    And how about Russia ? Here they are in Syria. What are their plans ?
    If I was over there facing the Russians on one side and ISIS on the other, I would want to leave too. But I would plan on returning: in a B 52.
    What about Turkey ? Sec Kerry needs to tell them the enemy is ISIS, not the Kurds. What is Turkey thinking ? Does our intelligence know ?




    0



    0
  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Rafer Janders: @DrDaveT:

    I don’t deny we were a catalyst. But we were a catalyst that brought a democratic government (however unsavory) to power. It was that government, Mr, Maliki at its head, that set about screwing the Sunnis. And that’s where ISIS came from. We didn’t create the Sunni/Shia split, we didn’t create the Assad or Saddam dictatorships. And we didn’t create the extremist Islamist ideology behind ISIS.

    We had a role, but not the dominant role. We did not become responsible for ISIS, and if you think about it I’m not sure why we’d want to rush to take on that responsibility. Cause that’s a whole new war with a whole new round of blowback.




    0



    0
  24. James Pearce says:

    @Tyrell:

    The problem is how will they be assimilated ?

    They’re running away from assimilation, not towards it. How they will be assimilated is a personal problem not a policy problem.

    @michael reynolds:

    We didn’t create the Sunni/Shia split, we didn’t create the Assad or Saddam dictatorships. And we didn’t create the extremist Islamist ideology behind ISIS.

    Nor do we, the American people, have much interest in sorting it all out. (Our government, that’s another story.)

    ISIS is a problem. But it’s not a problem we can solve.




    0



    0
  25. The moves announced by Secretary Kerry are a good start, but more should be done.

    Why? By what reason are we supposed to take in hundreds of thousands of “refugees”, vast amounts of whom are not from Syria, but Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Afghanistan? A goodly majority are fighting age men. Where are all the women and children? These are people who will not speak our language, will not share even the most basic of American values, will create their own separate communities, and will be immediately given vast government assistance over Americans.




    0



    0
  26. Andre Kenji says:

    @Just Me: No, that´s the essential idea of America. And I´tm talking about America in a broad sense – people from all over the World always found refugee in the American Continent, from Argentina to Canada.




    0



    0
  27. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    These are primarily Muslim refugees (with a smattering of Christians, who tend to get attacked by their fellow refugees) who are fleeing Muslim oppression in Muslim lands. They are not fleeing to Muslim lands, but countries that are generally secular with strong Christian heritage. And even though “charity” is one of the pillars of the Muslim faith, very few Muslim nations are doing much to support them. (Jordan is pretty much the exception.) The exceptionally wealthy Muslim gulf states are doing pretty much nothing to help their fellow Muslims from being slaughtered by other fellow Muslims.

    These actions speak far louder than words.




    0



    0
  28. Andre Kenji says:

    @William Teach:

    These are people who will not speak our language, will not share even the most basic of American values

    Many of these refugees speak ‘your language”. They are Middle Class people, that share many values with us. Maybe it´s because I live in a country that has a considerable Lebanese diaspora(São Paulo has a mayor with a Lebanese surname), but they are going to be integrated to the American Society.




    0



    0
  29. Andre Kenji says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    They are not fleeing to Muslim lands,

    No, they are. There are something like 4 million of Syrian refugees inTurkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt. There is only one Western country that has more than 100 thousand refugees, Germany. If you consider things like overstayed visas and people with no refugee status even the (rightly) criticized Gulf countries have more refugees than Europe.




    0



    0
  30. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We did not become responsible for ISIS,

    More or less. Part of the problem was created by the French and the British when they divided the Ottoman Empire(Both Syria and Iraq simply makes no sense as countries, and only authoritarian regimes could have held them together). It makes sense to have a Sunni country in the area that´s being occupied by ISIS, and the area controlled by the Allawites and Christians could make Lebanon a very prosperous country.

    (also note that somekind of sectarian conflict happened in most of the countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire)

    On the other hand, ISIS would not exist without the American Invasion of Iraq. You can´t debate that. By the way, going at least to the 1960´s you are going to find American fingerprints everywhere in the Middle East. When the Americans weren´t sending troops and bombing countries there, a country that receives more than 2 billion from the US taxpayer was doing that.




    0



    0
  31. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Andre Kenji: For the most part, those refugees are simply passing through those Muslim lands to Europe (and, they hope, the US). As I said, Jordan has been the exception, but those in Turkey are trying to get into Europe, and if we’re honest, Lebanon and Egypt are only slightly better than Syria right now.




    0



    0
  32. Andre Kenji says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    For the most part, those refugees are simply passing through those Muslim lands to Europe

    No, they are not. Most Syrians in the refugees camps don´t have the resources to go to Europe and the number of refugees going to Europe is a ridicule proportion when compared to the number of refugees in “Muslim lands”.




    0



    0
  33. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    For the most part, those refugees are simply passing through those Muslim lands to Europe (and, they hope, the US).

    Again, no, they’re not. Another lie. The vast majority of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, etc. have been there for years (in the case of Iraqis, some over a decade now). The ones who are now making it to Europe are generally the most motivated / well-off etc. so form only a small minority of the refugees.




    0



    0
  34. Andre Kenji says:

    By the way, I speak English as a Second Language. I can say that moving to a country where people does not speak your Native Language and don´t have the same culture that you do is NEVER easy. I always respect people that manages to do that.




    0



    0
  35. Rafer Janders says:

    @William Teach:

    These are people who will not speak our language, will not share even the most basic of American values, will create their own separate communities, and will be immediately given vast government assistance over Americans.

    Just like Benjamin Franklin predicted the US would never be able to assimilate the Germans: “Why should the Palatine Boors [i.e. Germans] be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.”

    Every new group that comes in, be it Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews, Chinese, Cubans etc. there’s some yahoo saying the same thing about how they’re never going to assimilate, they’re too foreign, etc. etc. And every time that yahoo is proven wrong.




    0



    0
  36. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: Depending on who “we” is, I may beg to differ with you on “we didn’t create the Saddam dictatorship.” “We” the citizens of the US? No, we didn’t, you’re right (and also insignificant). “We” the various “yes, he’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard” administrations planting trouble and at other intervals the tree of liberty across the world? Yeah, in fact that “we” did create the Saddam dictatorship.




    0



    0