Aid Groups Say U.S. Should Accept More Syrian Refugees

The leaders of U.S. humanitarian organizations say the United States should take in far more refugees from Syria than the ten thousand the Obama administration has promised to accept in the 2015-16 fiscal year, the New York Times reports.

Executives of aid organizations including CARE USA, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Physicians for Human Rights, and Save the Children said that while the increase — from fewer than two thousand in 2014-15 — was welcome, the U.S. needs to help resettle more of the roughly four million people who have fled the civil war in Syria since 2011 into neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey and, increasingly, Europe. By some calculations, displaced Syrians now account for a quarter of the population of Lebanon, while Germany is expecting to receive eight hundred thousand refugees and migrants this year, many of them from Syria.

"I think if the United States came out and said we would take a hundred thousand, that would change things," said Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles.

While advocates for refugees said ten thousand from Syria was an absurdly small increase compared with the large numbers of Vietnamese and Cubans that the U.S. resettled in decades past, others have expressed concerns over the possibility that Islamic extremists would inadvertently be allowed to enter the country. The aid groups' executives rejected those concerns, pointing to the stringent vetting required for admittance to the U.S.

"The crisis we're facing is not one in which we're lacking information," said PHR executive director Donna McKay: "It's about political will and failure to act."

A group of former government officials also urged the president and congressional leaders to accept a hundred thousand Syrian refugees. "We urge that you announce support for a refugees admissions goal of a hundred thousand Syrian refugees on an extraordinary basis, over and above the current worldwide refugee ceiling of seventy thousand," stated a letter signed by former Obama administration Defense and State Department officials Michèle A. Flournoy, Derek Chollet, Harold H. Koh, and Eric P. Schwartz, as well as Paul D. Wolfowitz, a deputy defense secretary in the George W. Bush administration.

Michael R. Gordon. "Ex-Officials Urge White House to Accept More Syrian Refugees." New York Times 09/17/2015. Rick Gladstone. "Charities Say U.S. Should Take Tens of Thousands of Syrians." New York Times 09/15/2015.