News / USA

    US Boosts Efforts to Help Syrian Refugees

    Syrian refugee Abed Hadi,19, feeds his nephew as he sits with other migrants beside railway tracks, waiting to cross the border from Idomeni, in northern Greece, to southern Macedonia, Sept. 1, 2015.
    Syrian refugee Abed Hadi,19, feeds his nephew as he sits with other migrants beside railway tracks, waiting to cross the border from Idomeni, in northern Greece, to southern Macedonia, Sept. 1, 2015.
    Pamela Dockins

    The State Department said Thursday that the U.S. had stepped up efforts to process Syrian refugees seeking admission to the United States.

    Spokesman Mark Toner said the total number of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. since the start of the country’s crisis in 2011 was expected to reach about 1,800 by the end of October.  

    He commented after photographs emerged showing the body of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned off the coast of Greece. The child’s mother and brother were also among those who died after their boat capsized.

    Toner said officials were “shocked” by the “graphic and heartbreaking images” emerging from the crisis in Europe, which is grappling to deal with one of its biggest migrant streams since World War II.

    Need for protection

    He said one U.S. challenge for admitting migrants from countries such as Syria is the U.S. review process, which can take up to 24 months.

    “There are a lot of terrorist groups operating in that region, in that part of the world,” said Toner. “We need to make sure that we fundamentally protect the national security of the United States.”

    He said the U.S. had “put more resources” behind the background checks. He also said the U.S. had provided more than $4 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of the Syrian crisis.

    Toner said that what's ultimately needed is a political resolution to the conflict in Syria that includes the departure of President Bashar al-Assad and the defeat of the Islamic State militant group.

    “We need to create an environment where these refugees can ultimately return home, which is where they want to be,” he said.

    Calls for US action

    Human Rights Watch Refugee Program Director Bill Frelick agreed that the root cause of the refugee crisis should be addressed, but he said the U.S. and other nations needed to do more in the meantime.

    “You can’t use that as an excuse for not taking this necessary step in the interim to protect people and to provide for their humanitarian needs,” he said.

    Frelick said the U.S. needed to provide more money to the United Nations, which has said its efforts to address the Syrian refugee crisis are significantly underfunded.

    The U.N. refugee agency said that overall, more than 300,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, with most of them initially landing in Greece. It said that figure compared with a total of about 219,000 refugees arriving in the region during all of 2014.

    Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee relief organization urged the U.S. to increase the number of Syrian refugees that it is willing to resettle to 65,000 by the end of next year.

    “The U.S. has historically been a world leader in recognizing the moral obligation to resettle refugees,” said IRC President David Miliband. “As the German government calmly says that it expects 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers in 2015, it is vital for the U.S. to step up its response.”

    Some U.S. lawmakers have also called for an increased U.S. response.

    In a June letter to President Barack Obama, 14 senators said, “It is a moral, legal and national security imperative for the United States to lead by example in addressing the world’s worst refugee crisis of our time by greatly increasing the number of Syrian refugees who are resettled in our country.”

    Some concerns

    However, other lawmakers have voiced concerns. Several Republican lawmakers wrote to national security adviser Susan Rice earlier this year, urging against any U.S. surge in Syrian resettlements because of “national security concerns.”

    The European Union is moving to step up its response to the refugee crisis, which is having the biggest impact on Greece, Italy and Hungary.

    The 28-nation block is set to hold an emergency meeting on the situation September 14.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    September 04, 2015 12:43 PM
    This will seem cruel, insensitive, and politically incorrect but it is my view that history is playing out just as it should. I remind those who sympathize with the refugees that what is happening to them is what virtually all of them wished on Israelis. And to Europe which opposed America's attack on Iraq when all of the intelligence agencies of major nations believed Iraq had WMDs and even Putin himself warned President Bush Saddam Hussein was planning to attack the US, America's so called allies fought actively against even a UN resolution threatening military action if Iraq didn't start to cooperate with the UN inspectors. So to Europe I say I have no sympathy for you either.

    I'm also reminded that Syria had a nuclear weapons program whose goal was surely to build a nuclear weapon with which to destroy Israel. Israel destroyed Syria's reactor and "neutralized" the mastermind behind their nuclear weapons program General Suleiman. I have no problem with what is happening in the Mideast and the Islamic world today. It may seem tragic but I find there is a sense of irony to it, poetic justice.

    by: Carolina from: Brazil
    September 04, 2015 10:00 AM
    Sorry If I'm telling a ridiculous thing, but we need more humanitarian help the people who are dying aren't terrorist if they are, they don't need go in this precarious conditions. We need think more in the others, we are all humans, and now have some peoples need help, but help NOW, lets help them.

    by: Candace Jacallen from: United States
    September 04, 2015 2:42 AM
    The women and children aren't terrorists. At least get them to safety immediately, process their paperwork later.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    September 04, 2015 2:23 PM
    The women have been taught as much hatred for America and Israel as the men. Children are taught to hate America and hate Jews as soon as they are old enough to talk. Some of them will be future terrorists if they get to grow up. They can thank their leaders for the lies they've been told and the plight they are in.

    by: williweb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
    September 04, 2015 1:21 AM
    Overpopulation is becoming an international norm. Declining birthrates in Europe and the US is not some kind of evil omen that must be overcome. It will be the only thing that saves our societies. Muslims need to take some lessons from us, not overflow into our countries.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    September 03, 2015 10:57 PM
    The US says they sent 4 billion dollars for humanitarian aid [guns and bullets] to Syria? .. They sure didn't send any money to help the Syrian people or the Assad government? .. But the US probably did spend 4 billion dollars in 4 years, arming and training tens of thousands of Sunni Muslim extremists and fanatics in Turkey and Jordan to wage war on the Shia Muslim led government of Assad and Syria, and the Syrian people?

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