US faces pressure to take more refugees
Hundreds of refugees wait to board a ship at the port of Lesbos, September 7, 2015. (AFP/File)
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The Obama administration is working on ways to assist refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries, a White House spokesman said Monday, following criticism in the US and abroad over Washington’s perceived unwillingness to resettle a significant number of displaced Syrians and Iraqis within the country.
The US is “considering a range of approaches to be more responsive to the global refugee crisis, including with regard to refugee resettlement,” spokesman Peter Boogaard stated. According to Boogaard, the US has provided billions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. “The US is the single largest donor to the Syrian crisis,” he further said, according to Reuters.
Boogaard’s statements came as close to 1,300 Americans signed an online petition on the MoveOn.org website urging the US to let in more refugees. Reuters quoted the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Michelle Brané claiming that Washington “could and should be doing more. The silence of the White House on this is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, Britain and France joined Germany on Monday in pledging to accept tens of thousands of refugees. Germany is preparing to receive by far the largest number of immigrants, an estimated 800,000 by the end of the year, and British Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK would resettle up to 20,000 Syrians from camps in Turkey, Jordan and Syria over the next five years. French President Francois Hollande announced his country would welcome 24,000 refugees.
The US, in contrast, has so far accepted only 1,500 Syrian refugees, most of them this year, since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.
In explaining the low numbers of refugees allowed to resettle in the US, the Obama administration has cited concerns that Islamic State- or al-Qaeda-affiliated operatives could enter the country disguised as asylum seekers. According to Reuters, the US State Department has stressed that Washington’s vetting process is a crucial yet complicating factor for Syrians seeking entry.
Hillary Clinton on Monday called for a “concerted global effort” to assist the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking refuge in Europe. In an interview with AP, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination said that “everyone should be asked to do more” to help the migrants, many of whom are fleeing the civil war in Syria.
“I think we need to have a broad-based global response,” Clinton said before spending the Labor Day holiday campaigning in eastern Iowa and parts of Illinois. “The United States certainly should be at the table, but so should everybody else.”
“And if countries are not able to do more physically in taking in these refugees, they should do more financially,” she said.
Clinton, the former secretary of state, said she was speaking most particularly about the oil-rich states of the Persian Gulf.
“They should be funding a lot of the resettlement work and supporting those countries that are bearing the burden of the refugees,” she said.
More than four million people have fled their homes in war-torn Syria, with Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon taking in the lion’s share of refugees. Thousands of Syrian refugees have also flooded into Europe in the four years of bitter fighting.
A global outcry last week over an image of the body of a three-year-old Syrian child, which washed up on the Turkish shore after he and his brother and mother drowned trying to reach the island of Kos, spurred European leaders to increase the numbers of refugees they accept.
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