Today British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Unite Kingdom would take in thousands more Syrian refugees, and he announced a bump in humanitarian aid for refugee camps in the region. USAID estimates 12.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance there. And while the U.S. has been a leader in financial assistance since the conflict began in 2011 — pressure is mounting both at home and abroad to do more.
Since the start of the Syrian conflict, the U.S. has been the single largest donor of humanitarian aid, more than $4 billion to date. Eric Davis, a political science professor at Rutgers University, says that’s definitely important, “but that’s not the long term. That’s like putting a Band-Aid on cancer.”
The U.S. will have taken in almost 1,800 Syrian refugees since the conflict started. Taking in more would help, but it isn’t an easy process, Davis says. He’s worked closely with Iraqis seeking asylum, and he says even those that worked as translators for the U.S. military had difficulty. It’s expensive, most need a lawyer, and they have to prove they’re under threat.
Sarah Margon, the Washington director at Human Rights Watch, says refugee resettlement doesn’t happen very quickly.
“And part of the problem is that in the wake of 9/11, the system has really ossified,” she says, “and the process is very laden with interviews and security and background checks.”
It can take years, she says. The U.S. is under pressure to take in more refugees. So how many would it take to make a difference? Kemal Kirişci is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He had a hard time putting a number on it.
“I mean, even 130,000 is only a tiny fraction of the 4.2 million refugees who are mostly in the immediate neighboring countries,” he says.
Recently the State Department said by the end of 2016 it would likely accept up to 8,000 Syrian refugees.
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