Out of millions, US has admitted just 33 Syrian refugees

Updated 14 September 2013

Out of millions, US has admitted just 33 Syrian refugees

Predicting the number of Syrians leaving their homes has one rule of thumb: Just keep raising the totals. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees does this periodically. Now, after two years of war, the agency estimates that 7 million Syrians, or one-third of the population, are displaced in their own country or refugees in other countries. This movement already represents the largest forced migration since Afghans fled their country following the Soviet invasion in 1979.
The UN says that more than 2 million refugees are in neighboring countries. One needs to pay tribute to the extraordinary and costly effort by UN agencies and numerous nongovernmental organizations to keep Syrians alive and safe under trying conditions. There is room and need for a greater effort by the US and its friends and allies, not to mention countries such as Russia and China that have been quick to preserve Syrian President Bashar Assad but have stayed on the humanitarian sidelines.
The refugee burden, not surprisingly, has fallen mostly on four bordering countries: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Because the civil war shows no sign of ending, helping more refugees and the internally displaced — possibly up to 2 million more — requires that all regional countries remain politically able to keep their borders mostly open and that donor countries provide even larger sums. Can neighboring countries handle another million or more Syrian refugees?
Turkey has the capacity to take many more refugees, perhaps as many as another half a million, however politically unpopular that will be. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been the strongest and most vocal supporter of destroying Assad and has impressively supported maintaining refugees; additional outside funds would be both politically and financially useful.
Jordan and Lebanon are increasingly overburdened, so Syrians are also going to Egypt, Libya and parts of eastern Europe. The 100,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt have been increasingly troubled, and many are struggling to leave.
Should Western governments get a free pass on accepting Syrian refugees? Certainly not, although they will find it politically hard to accept large numbers of Muslim refugees. Nevertheless, the West must demonstrate its willingness to bear part of the burden. So far this fiscal year, the US has admitted just 33 Syrian refugees. The new fiscal year will permit President Barack Obama to provide for a significant number of Syrian refugees within the 70,000 total allotted to the US refugee program. In turn, the US willingness to accept more refugees can also help accelerate resettlement efforts by other Western countries. Under normal US procedures, resettlement could take a few years. So as the United States has done with Indochinese and other refugee groups, it must expedite processing.
Who will pay for all the humanitarian requirements? Funding shortages have been chronic. Right now, the UN refugee agency estimates requirements of $3.1 billion through the end of this year, only 40 percent of which has been delivered.
In a year of sequestration, many would consider the US contribution impressive. In another sense, however, the US humanitarian response has been dismaying. Obama has not made opening American pockets to Syrians a major public concern, perhaps out of fear of being seen as taking over the Syrian problem. He has not spoken to the public except through White House statements or brief references to what the US has already provided, his top officials have not banged on doors, and US participation at pledging conferences has not been at high levels.


Donald Trump says Erdogan told him he wants northern Syria cease-fire to work

Updated 18 October 2019

Donald Trump says Erdogan told him he wants northern Syria cease-fire to work

  • Trump, in a series of tweets, said he had spoken to Erdogan
  • Call followed Trump letter to Turkish president which drew international criticism

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said Friday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had assured him that he wants the “cease-fire” with Kurdish militants in northern Syria to work.
Trump, in a series of tweets, said he had spoken to Erdogan and “he very much wants the cease-fire, or pause, to work.
“Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen,” the US president said.
“There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success,” he said. “The US has secured the Oil, & the Daesh Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey.”
Trump also said that “some” European countries, which he did not name, “are now willing, for the first time, to take the (Daesh group) Fighters that came from their nations.”
“This is good news, but should have been done after WE captured them,” he said. “Anyway, big progress being made!!!!“
Trump also tweeted “DEFEAT TERRORISM!” in all capital letters in response to a tweet by Erdogan saying “Mr. President, many more lives will be saved when we defeat terrorism, which is humanity’s arch enemy.”
Earlier Friday, Erdogan warned that Ankara would resume military operations against Kurdish forces in Syria if they did not withdraw from a “safe zone” along the Turkey-Syria border.
Turkey has agreed to suspend its offensive for five days in northern Syria while Kurdish fighters withdraw from the area, after high-stake talks with US Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara.