President Barack Obama, in an effort to aid European nations struggling to resettle tens of thousands of refugees, has directed his administration to take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year.
Briefing reporters on Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president’s order represents a significant scaling up of efforts to aid the refugees of war-torn nations in the Middle East and Africa.
“Now we know the scale of this problem. It’s significant and there are millions of people who have been driven from their homes because of this violence,” Earnest said. “We know that admitting that it certainly is not feasible for millions of Syrians to come to this country, but what we can do is make sure that we are doing everything we can to try to provide for their basic needs.”
The U.S. is on track to receive an additional 1,500 Syrian refugees by the end of the month as part of the 70,000 accepted from various countries on a yearly basis.
President Obama would not “cut corners” with regards to security, the White House added. Anyone accepted into the U.S. will have to pass through a “robust security process.” The State Department’s current vetting process takes between 18 and 24 months to complete, and includes an exhaustive criminal and terrorism background check.
The White House’s announcement follows increased international pressure on the U.S. to take more responsibility in the refugee resettlement process. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have poured into Europe in the past week alone. German officials said their country expects to take in around 800,000 refugees by the end of the year, a daunting and expensive task, and one that dwarfs the assistance offered by the U.S.
He's just a child but already feels the joy of reaching safety in Germany. Wishing this refugee a bright future. pic.twitter.com/me9gr188uJ— Kathryn Mahoney📸 (@MissMahoo) September 7, 2015
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, urged the European Union’s member nations this week to set aside disagreements on moral grounds and agree to resettle as many as 160,000 people. His proposal called for the E.U. to establish common standards for how the refugees should be treated and prioritize which of them should be granted asylum first.
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis more than four years ago, the United States has accepted only around 1,300 of the country’s refugees, or 0.3 percent of the 4 million displaced.
A petition on the White House’s website which calls on the U.S. government to accept at least 65,000 Syrian refugees by 2016 has received more than 64,000 signatures at time of writing.
Photo via U.K. Department for International Development/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)