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Ten thousandth Syrian refugee arrives in US

2 September 20160 comments

The US accepted its 10,000th Syrian refugee this week, fulfilling a resettlement pledge made by President Obama early last year.

Under pressure from Europe and other countries confronting the global migration crisis last fall, President Obama raised the number of Syrian refugees who would be offered legal status to at least 10,000 in the 2016 financial year.

By contrast, Australia has settled fewer than 2,000 of the 12,000 it has pledged to take, according to a recent report in The Australian newspaper.

Most of the 10,000 Syrian refugees who have been granted asylum in the US – like those so far accepted by Australia – are families.

US refugees graphicAccording to the US State Department, approximately 80 per cent are women and children.

Roughly 60 per cent are under the age of 18. The vast majority of male refugees are fathers, grandchildren, or older siblings. Only 0.5 per cent are adult men unattached to families.

In the last year, Syrian refugees have been placed in 39 different states, with California and Michigan hosting the largest numbers. More than half of have been resettled in eight states—California, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, and New York.

Although the goal of admitting 10,000 Syrians in this fiscal year marked a six-fold increase over last year, the number of refugees resettled this year only accounts for about two per cent of the total number of Syrian refugees the United Nations says are in need of resettlement.

Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has proposed a target of admitting 65,000.

In response, Republican candidate Donald Trump has ridiculed her proposal.

In April, he told supporters in Rhode Island to “lock your doors” to stay safe from Syrian refugees. “We don’t know who these people are. We don’t know where they’re from,” he warned. In December 2015, Trump tweeted that a Syrian family who crossed the US-Mexico border were “ISIS maybe?”

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security said that the Syrian refugees it is currently vetting are subject to the same stringent security and medical requirements as other asylum-seekers.

Those applying for refugee status must go through a 21-step vetting process which includes security screenings by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department.

The Obama administration has said has plans to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the US by “a few thousand” next year.

Canada has so far settled almost 30,000 Syrian refugees.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist