Recently I published an article advocating for the U.S. acceptance of more Syrian refugees within our borders, as the most effective way to alleviate at least some of the suffering of over 4 million Syrians that have been displaced from their homes as a result of the Syrian civil war.
The reasoning behind this kind of action is simple. Again, military intervention is not currently posed to end the war so that Syrians can return home and rebuild. The war is in it for the long haul.
Additionally, resources Syrians already consume are beings stretched beyond their limits. This again is easy to see if you simply consider the sheer volume of refugees contained in camps and shaky resettlement plans across the middle east, as of 2015:
- Turkey: 1.9 million (14% sheltered in camps, over 50% are under age 17)
- Lebanon: 1.1 million (Syrians account for a 25% increase in the nation’s population)
- Jordan: 629,000 (even this numbers strains resources, and 20% of refugees are held in camps)
- Iraq: 249,000 (despite the fact that the proliferation of ISIS and western attacks on terrorism have produced Iraqi refugees as well. Over 38% Syrian refugees live in camps here)
- Egypt: 132,000 (No refugee camps here)
These numbers have inflated since collected in September of 2015, especially considering the increasing instability recently in Iraq with new offensives on ISIS strongholds in Mosul.
By the end of the 2015 fiscal year the United States had granted 1,500 Syrian asylum requests and about that many more resettlements. The United States is also the biggest contributor of relief aid to Syrian refugees, donating more than $547 million, or 31% of all aid donated as of 2015, according to the United Nations.
So, if the U.S. is already the biggest donor nation, and we already have taken in some refugees, why do we need to take in more?
The reasons here are simple. First, the current countries hosting the majority of the refugees cannot continue to support the large influxes of Syrians; they do not have the resources. Even with millions spent in refugee aid, the budgeted need for the refugee crisis is still not close to being met, according to the United Nations.
Secondly, leadership in times of humane crisis has been an American tradition ever since World War II, especially when U.S. involvement in the middle east contributed to the current instability the region faces. Other European nations are set to substantially step up the numbers of refugees they allow resettlement in their nations, in particular Germany. Not only would most say that the United States has a responsibility to help these in need, but we most definitely have the resources to grant a larger number of refugees asylum and resettlement. It’s also consistent with core American values. Just look at the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Additionally, some have argued against accepting more refugees because of the possibility of a terrorist infiltration of the resettlement program. However, the resettlement program is so heavily scrutinized that it remains the least likely route for extremists. Actually, accepting more refugees now, during the heat of an American-led global war on terrorism, sends a message the rest of the world: the U.S. is not afraid and we can protect ourselves and our allies.
Lastly, it has been proven time and time again that the U.S. has benefitted greatly by accepting in refugee populations. In return for our humanitarian leadership, the U.S. economy, industry, universities and scientific community have grown and advanced due to the influx of German scientists and intellectuals fleeing the Nazis during World War II and Eastern European scholars during the Cold War. Cuban, Vietnamese and Chinese refugees have also gone on to be large actors in U.S. commerce and leaders in technology and American industries.
The Obama administration has already made plans to expand the resettlement program and include more Syrian refugees. It remains to be seen if the next administration will take similar initiative in this global crisis.
- On countries who welcome refugees, both in the middle east and Europe/the Americas: http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/09/world/welcome-syrian-refugees-countries/
- Opinion: Why the U.S. should do more for refugees:
- The Syrian refugee crisis in numbers: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/02/syrias-refugee-crisis-in-numbers/
- On the Mosul offensive: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/04/middleeast/iraq-mosul-campaign-analysis-lister/
- White Helmets, Syria’s volunteer search and rescue team: http://time.com/4507009/aleppo-offensive-syria-white-helmets-attack/
- White Helmet’s official website: https://www.whitehelmets.org/
- Crisis in Syria, seen from street-level: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/09/26/495005538/young-syrian-with-a-dream-risks-his-life-to-film-new-netflix-doc
- What Syria might mean for the future of American foreign policy: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/world/middleeast/syria-provokes-an-american-anxiety-is-us-power-really-so-special.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2FThe%20Interpreter
- Founder of Chobani Greek Yogurt and efforts to aid refugees amid backlash: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/business/for-helping-immigrants-chobanis-founder-draws-threats.html?ribbon-ad-idx=5&src=trending
- Secretary of State Kerry and American attitude toward Syria: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/08/us/politics/john-kerry-russia-syria-assad.html