New York City—Human Rights First said that today’s announcement that the United States resettled only 114 Syrian refugees last month falls far short of the level of progress needed to meet the government’s current modest commitment to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016. The updated numbers were released today by the Department of State.
“This lackluster progress toward meeting the U.S. resettlement goal for Syrian refugees undermines U.S. global leadership and undercuts the U.S. ability to enlist other countries to do more to help address the refugee crisis.” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “The president should direct the necessary staff and resources towards the backlogs and bottlenecks that are hampering the country’s capacity to meet its commitment.”
As of today, over one-third of the way through the fiscal year, the United States had resettled only 955 out of the 10,000 Syrian refugees it pledged to resettle by September 30, 2016.
Earlier this week Human Rights First released a new report “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership,” that details the deteriorating conditions facing Syrian refugees across the region, the backlogs hampering U.S. progress toward meeting its commitment to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, and the impact of the failure to effectively address the refugee crisis on the stability of front-line refugee hosting states. The report’s findings and recommendations are based on a recent research trip to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, where Human Rights First staff met with refugees, aid organizations, resettlement experts and others in the region. In the report, the organization warns that to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, the United States must launch a global initiative to address the crisis, and significantly increase its own resettlement commitment, as well as its humanitarian assistance and development investment in the region.
The report also details that the U.S. resettlement process is hampered by bottlenecks, backlogs, and staffing gaps, which undermine the United States’ ability to meet its humanitarian, protection, and foreign policy goals. Despite significant U.S. efforts to step up resettlement processing, these backlogs and staffing gaps make it difficult for the United States to meet even its modest commitment to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees, which amounts to only about 2 percent of the Syrian refugees in need of resettlement and less than 0.2 percent of the overall Syrian refugee population.
Syrian refugees undergo an extensive vetting and security clearance process before they are admitted to the country, the most rigorous process applied to any traveling to the United States. The U.S. government then conducts its own extremely rigorous screening process, including health checks, repeated biometric checks, several layers of biographical and background screening, and in-person interviews by specially-trained officers.
“Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan continue to host the majority of Syrian refugees, adding incredible strain to their infrastructure,” noted Acer. “This is a national security imperative for the United States, as well as a humanitarian issue. The United States must lead by example. It should be increasing both its resettlement and aid commitments in order to encourage other countries to do more as well. A continued lack of adequate aid and resettlement will exacerbate the strain on front-line states and risks destabilizing those states and the region more broadly.”