WHY WON’T THE USA TAKE MORE SYRIAN REFUGEES?

By Faizal Nor Izham

Over the past week, footage of Syrian refugees has bombarded international news channels. Most of the four million fleeing Syrians – currently living in overcrowded refugee camps in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey – often go on to travel thousands of miles through central Europe, and across the Mediterranean, to countries such as Austria and Germany. Many have attempted to find their way onto boats, trains and trucks crossing the Channel to the UK.

It has been described by some as the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two, with a record number of 107,500 asylum seekers crossing the EU’s borders in July alone. About 3,000 have died this year trying to reach Europe by sea – with the most prominently-reported death being the tragic demise of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned trying to reach the Greek island of Kos from Turkey.

According to the United Nations, around 1.9 million refugees currently live in Turkish refugee camps, 1.1 million are in Lebanon, 629,000 in Jordan, 249,000 in northern Iraq and 132,000 in Egypt. The UN’s refugee agency has called for 130,000 of them to be resettled by the end of 2016, with Germany exceeding the commitments of other Western countries by pledging to take in 35,000 by then.

it wouldn’t take a scholar to realise that it was
America’s post-9/11 war in Iraq that resulted in the t
errorist group’s existence in the first place.

In a policy shift, David Cameron on Friday announced that the UK will also provide resettlement for “thousands” more without specifying a number. But let us take a moment to reflect. If one were to trace back the actual source of the entire issue – i.e. the emergence of Isis in Syria – it wouldn’t take a scholar to realise that it was America’s post-9/11 war in Iraq that resulted in the terrorist group’s existence in the first place.

A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refug...A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refugee camp set in the town of Harmanli, south-east of Sofia on November 12, 2013.  Bulgaria's asylum centres are severely overcrowded after the arrival of almost 10,000 refugees this year, half of them Syrian. The influx has fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment in a country already struggling with dire poverty.   AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOVNIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images

So while Europe continues to bear the political and financial burden of mass migration, one might want to ask: why isn’t America doing more to help out in this regard? According to the US State Department, America has only taken in about 1,500 refugees so far, and expects a mere 300 by October.

It is not just because the US has played a crucial hand in the Syria crisis – it is also due to the fact that five of the wealthiest Gulf Nations (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain – some of which are prominent trading partners with the US) have completely refused to take in refugees, as none of them have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention. However, since Europe has been complaining about the potential overload of immigrants for the past decade now, it only make sense that the burden should be shared among as many nations as possible, if only for a little while.

syrian-refugee-crisis-photos-1381956964957-superJumbo

In late spring this year, fourteen US senators wrote to President Barack Obama, urging that at least 65,000 of the displaced Syrians be allowed to resettle in the United States. Taking in 65,000 Syrians is virtually impossible under the existing asylum process in the US, which requires lengthy background checks. Despite America giving substantially to Syrian refugees in terms of relief aid, a lot more should be done to atone for the most fruitless war in recent history.

So long as the refugee crisis continues, the responsibility cannot solely lie with Europe to give sanctuary to those in need – this solidarity must cross the Atlantic.

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