The United States on Monday, 29 August said it has welcomed the 10,000th Syrian refugee of this fiscal year, reaching the goal the Obama administration set last year, more than a month ahead of schedule.
Obama's National security adviser, Susan Rice said in a statement "On behalf of the President and his Administration, I extend the warmest of welcomes to each and every one of our Syrian arrivals, as well as the many other refugees resettled this year from all over the world."
While Rice admitted that a lot more work needs to be done in the region, she said the move is a step in the right direction. "While refugee admissions are only a small part of our broader humanitarian efforts in Syria and the region, the President understood the important message this decision would send, not just to the Syrian people but to the broader international community."
David Miliband, CEO and president of the International Rescue Committee, said on Monday: "IRC encourages the White House to consider this 10,000 milestone a floor and not a ceiling. The achievement of the 10,000 target proves what is possible, and there remains an urgent need to further strengthen US leadership in resettling refugee families — with appropriate vetting — fleeing violence and war." He asked for the Obama administration to consider upping the numbers to 140,000 in 2017.
This announcement comes just a few weeks before Obama convenes a summit on refugees at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. The issue of resettlement of Syrian refugees in the US has become a political flashpoint over the past year, with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, expressing concern about terrorists exploiting refugee flows to reach the west.
The Obama administration had set the goal last year as the refugee crisis in Europe had reached its peak and international leaders called on the US to do more to resettle refugees. In the first four years of the conflict, the US resettled only 1,900 refugees and faced a UN case referrals backlog.
The administration also admitted that the process faced by Syrian refugees is one of the most rigorous and takes about 12 to 18 months to complete. The process starts with referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The registration process includes in-depth refugee interviews, reference checks of their home country and biological screening such as iris scans. After the medical and security screening, the homeland security officer could approve the refugee's application to be resettled in the US. Following the approval, officials match the refugee with a US voluntary agency that will help them find a home and employment.
Josh Earnest, White House spokesperson, said the US will again admit another 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming fiscal year, starting on 1 October.
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, more than 4.8 million fled their homeland, to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and many more to the shores of Europe in search of safety and security.