U.S. Will Take 10,000 Syrian Refugees — Should It Take More?

Photo: Geovien So/AP Photo.
The U.S. will take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, the White House said Thursday. Thousands of people have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya and thousands more have already made their way across Europe this summer.

While this is an improvement on an earlier plan to take in 5,000 to 8,000 Syrian people, it’s still far short of the 800,000 that Germany has said it can help. It’s also a fraction of the 70,000 to 100,000 people Secretary of State John Kerry said America would be able to assist, according to the New York Times.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees have left their homes this year alone. They’ve traveled from countries such as Somalia and Yemen to Pakistan and Bangladesh in search of safer and better lives. But after four years of brutal civil war, conflict in Syria has created more than 4 million refugees, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The U.S. has only taken in some 1,500 individuals.

Why so few? The State Department has said it normally takes between 18 months and two years to decide whether someone is eligible to come to the U.S. as a refugee. The U.N.H.C.R. works with the U.S. program that processes refugee applications, but American government fears surrounding terrorism mean that Syrians are under scrutiny for the simple fact that they have fled Syria.

European nations and the U.S. promised to do more to help refugees and migrants after a photographer captured images of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi (warning: sensitive material) on a Turkish beach. Kurdi, his 5-year-old brother, and his mother all drowned when their boat sank; their father survived. The Canadian government had rejected the family’s application to move there and live with relatives.

Those photos sparked international outrage and heartbreak. Several European countries, led by Germany, have opened their borders. While some Europeans have greeted migrants by building walls and beating them, there have also been scenes of cheering crowds handing out water, food, and other supplies.

“Not only are Syrians resorting to desperate measures to seek a better life for themselves and their families in Europe, but they are dying in the process,” David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Refugee Commission, said in a statement earlier this month. “The Mediterranean Sea has become the graveyard for desperate refugees seeking safety and a better life.”

This is not the first time that would-be immigrants have been stuck inside American bureaucracy because of security worries. Despite thousands of available visas under a special program, many Iraqi and Afghan translators who worked with the U.S. military struggled to get them because of paperwork problems, political gridlock, and unexplained denials. Some were killed by militants while they waited.

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