On Thursday, September 10th, President Obama announced that his administration was preparing to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States in Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2016 – September 31, 2016). This number represents a five-fold increase from the fewer than 2,000 refugees accepted into the United States in the past year.
While these numbers sound impressive, the truth is that they do not go far enough in aiding the 4 million refugees who have fled the Syrian Civil War. Countries closest to Syria have absorbed the most refugees; Turkey has accepted over 2 million alone and Lebanon has accepted well over 1 million.
Of course, accepting millions of refugees has taken a toll on these countries, themselves developing nations, and as resources diminish, refugees have begun to look for what’s next. Many refugees have set their sights on Europe, where many empathetic citizens have welcomed them but where leaders have remained startlingly silent on the emerging humanitarian crisis. More than 2,400 refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
In the face of such an alarming need, this is no time for small actions. Yet, the 10,000 immigrants President Obama is prepared to accept represents way less than what America can and should do to help alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees.
In May of 2015, a group of fourteen Democratic Senators asked President Obama to allow 65,000 Syrians to settle within the United States in each of the next two years, following a recommendation from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, of the 16,000 refugees that have recommended for resettlement in the US by UNHCR, the US has only taken about 10%.
The Republican party also finds itself divided between their moral responsibility to aid refugees and their concerns over national security, a divide sure to make itself known at next week’s GOP primary debate.
While accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US is significant, and especially significant to those individuals and families who build a life in here under this initiative, it is also insufficient and should not be the end of our country’s discussion on how to provide aid to Syrians amidst this unspeakable humanitarian crisis.