Calling on the US to welcome at least 100,000 Syrian refugees next year

Amal, 12, and her sisters sit in their home in Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan. Amal attends a kids club at an Oxfam community centre in Zaatari refugee camp. Sam Tarling

More than four million need a safe haven. The White House proposal to admit just 10,000 Syrians is ‘far short of our fair share.’

The death of a child—just one of untold many—washing ashore on a Mediterranean beach has finally focused global attention on the plight of more than four million refugees from war-torn Syria.

Although the majority have found shelter in neighboring countries—Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan—desperate families have been streaming into Europe as Oxfam and many other international aid groups call on other nations to open their doors, too.

The US has welcomed just 1,500 Syrians since the start of the crisis in 2011, a paltry few given its tradition of generosity in resettling hundreds of thousands of people during other crises.

In early September, the White House announced it would boost the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the US to at least 10,000 in the next fiscal year, starting on Oct. 1. But that number is not nearly enough.

“This 10,000 is basically the number we could do in our sleep,” said Oxfam’s Paul O’Brien. Oxfam is calling for an increase of about 10 times that amount: at least 100,000 Syrians.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the country would increase its overall refugee cap in the next fiscal year from 70,000 to 85,000 people to accommodate more Syrians. And the following year, fiscal year 2017, it would aim to resettle 100,000 refugees from around the world. The increase, however, does not necessarily change the limit set for Syrian refugees, which so far remains at 10,000 people.

Oxfam, together with many other organizations, has called on the White House to welcome 200,000 refugees in the next fiscal year, with at least 100,000 of them from Syria.

“The tragic events of recent weeks have at last galvanized international attention to this crucial issue,” said Oxfam’s Noah Gottschalk. “But the White House proposal is far short of our fair share.”

The administration’s plan comes at a time of a growing backlash on Capitol Hill against Syrian refugees. They are now being tarred as potential terrorists.

"While we have a proud history of welcoming refugees, the Syrian conflict is a unique case requiring heightened vigilance and scrutiny," said Republican Representative Michael McCaul in a June letter focused on the Obama administration. "It represents the single largest convergence of Islamist terrorists in history … "

The backlash is unfounded: Refugees are subjected to the most thorough vetting and screening process of any visitors to the United States, points out Gottschalk.

“We mustn’t forget that the Syrian conflict began with citizens peacefully demonstrating for democracy and human rights. Since then, Syrians have been subjected to unspeakable violence – we should be standing with them in their moment of need,” he says.

What can you do? Tell President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson we must do more for Syria’s refugees. 

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