United States President Barack Obama said today that his country will not sit idly by as one of the worst refugee crisis the world has known unfolds. Obama has directed his administration to prepare to take in 10,000 refugees in the next year.
However, in comparisons to many European countries that number is not so large – Germany took in 20,000 last weekend alone and will taken in upwards of 800,000 in total – and some organizations are criticizing the U.S. for what they deem to be an inadequate response. Among those who believe the U.S. should do more is Melanie Nezer of the global refugee advocacy group, HIAS.
“This is totally within the realm of what the current system on autopilot could do,” Nezer said. “This is not time for autopilot. This is time to really ramp things up.”
U.S. and refugee crisis
The U.S. normally admits a total of 70,000 refugees from many countries each year. Reuters reports that White House spokesman Josh Earnest did not say whether the 20,000 Syrians admitted will be in addition to that figure of 70,000.
Earnest did say that admitting the Syrians will be a lengthy task and that “the president will not sign off on a process that cuts corners.” There are many in Syria with anti-American sentiments, he noted, and security checks on those who are being processed to enter the U.S. will be thorough.
Since the civil war in Syria began four years ago the U.S. has taken in 1,500 refugees from that country, with another 300 soon to enter. In total, more than 4 million have fled Syria to escape the war and political oppression. It is estimated that 220,000 Syrians have died since the war began in March of 2011, over half of them civilians.
The U.S. has traditionally taken in more refugees during crisis such as the one ongoing now in Syria. The New York Times reports that in 1980 over 120,000 refugees from Cuba were admitted during the Mariel boatlift and in the same year the U.S. took in 207,000 refugees from Vietnam.