This week, the United States admitted the 10,000th Syrian refugee, meeting their goal for this fiscal year.
After a halting start, resettlement numbers began to rise this summer after the Obama administration committed more staff and resources, allowing them to meet their goal over a month early. But with nearly 5 million registered Syrian refugees, this pledge does not address the enormity of the crisis.
In response, Oxfam America President Ray Offenheiser said: “We are very pleased to see that the United States has met its pledge to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year. After a slow and troubled start, and in the midst of a heated national debate, the Obama administration was able to safely ramp up the program to meet its goal.
“More than a number, meeting this pledge ensures that 10,000 Syrian refugees who have lost so much during nearly five and a half years of conflict have a chance to start over. Many of these Syrians are already our neighbors, friends and colleagues, contributing to the fabric of our communities. They live with the hope that their children and generations to come will face a more certain future, free from the fear and deprivation that comes in times of war.”
“As the Obama administration prepares to convene world leaders in New York where they will pledge their support for refugees and migrants, we are hopeful that the US will open its doors and to far more refugees in the coming fiscal year which begins in October. The US has proven that it can put in place a resettlement program that ensures our safety through robust security checks while also doing our part to respond to a historic displacement crisis. With strong support from Congressional leaders we are also hopeful that this next year the US can double global refugee admissions.”
Even if we double our total refugee resettlement pledge to 200,000, it still feels like a mere drop in the bucket, knowing that over 65 million people are now away from home after fleeing conflict, persecution and violence; the highest level since records began. And, that the US and other 5 wealthiest countries host less than nine percent of the world’s refugees combined.
The United States must be an example to other countries, particularly ahead of President Obama’s summit and Bank ki Moon’s Summit the day before, where nations from around the world will be called upon to pledge their support to refugees in urgent need of protection. Oxfam and others are hoping that at the September Summits, countries will agree to unequivocally uphold the fundamental human rights of people who have been forced to flee their homes as outlined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Specifically, we are calling on rich countries to welcome more refugees and to give more financial support to poorer, refugee-hosting counties, as well as for countries who are hosting refugees to allow them to work and go to school. Lastly, Oxfam is advocating for people who are displaced within their own countries to have the same access to assistance and protection as refugees.
Our country has a long, proud tradition of welcoming refugees in their darkest hours. Syrian families deserve a safe place and a chance to begin their lives again. We hope that many more of them will do so as our friends, neighbors and colleagues in the months and years to come.