Posted 12:02AM on Saturday 5th September 2015 ( 1 day ago )
US refugee policy comes under microscope as migrants pour into Europe
By The Associated Press
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Europe is struggling with a surge of refugees and
immigrants that has resulted in countless deaths, including that of a
3-year-old Syrian who washed up on a beach in Turkey and has become a
symbol of the crisis.
The disturbing image of the dead child has brought new awareness to
the crisis and led to criticism that the world is not doing enough to
accommodate the refugees, many of them victims of a long-running civil
war in Syria. The family of Aylan Kurdi, whose brother and mother also
drowned while on a small boat that was on its way from Turkey to
Greece, says an aunt in Canada tried to get the family refugee status
there. The Canadian government on Thursday said it never received a
refugee application for the family. It has accepted 2,300 refugees
from Canada so far.
The situation has also led to calls for the U.S. to take a greater
role in the crisis by expanding its refugee program and making it
easier for desperate immigrants to navigate the cumbersome and
A look at how the U.S. refugee system works:
HOW MANY REFUGEES DOES THE U.S. ACCEPT?
The government has authorized 70,000 refugees to be resettled in the
United States in fiscal year 2015, which began Oct. 1. The cap is set
by the White House, which works with Congress and takes into account
funding and the potential social and economic impact of refugees in
About 51,000 refugees from all over the world have been resettled here
through July, according to data compiled by the Refugee Processing
Center. The State Department says the U.S. will likely reach or come
close to meeting the 70,000 cap. Iraq, Bhutan, Burma, Somalia and the
Democratic Republic of Congo comprise the largest makeup of refugees
accepted in the U.S. Meanwhile, only about 1,000 Syrians have been
resettled in America this fiscal year. People from countries like
Egypt, Libya and Eritrea have been accepted into the U.S. at even
Stacie Blake, director of government and community relations for the
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, says refugee policies
around the world are outdated. They're based on the 1951 Refugee
Convention, when world leaders couldn't have anticipated the crisis
we're seeing today, she said.
"Clearly the European Union is struggling to respond, and I can't
imagine anyone likes to see the pictures that we are all seeing right
now," she said.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR REFUGEES TO MAKE IT TO THE U.S.?
Being resettled in the United States is often a long and difficult
process. Many times, refugees live in camps outside of their home
country for up to a decade before they are accepted into a new country
like the United States. Most refugees are first selected by the Office
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which then makes
recommendations to different countries for resettlement. Only about 1
percent of refugees are resettled into a new country, and the U.S.
takes in about half of those, the State Department says. Once a
refugee is selected for settlement in the United States, they undergo
a rigorous background check and health inspection.
But large numbers of people never reach that point. They end up living
in refugee camps like the massive ones in Jordan that have housed
hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Some refugees return to their home
countries, while others take dangerous risks to reach Europe.
"We are concerned that the need is so great and even though as a
country we do receive more refugees than other countries, clearly our
efforts and the efforts of other countries around the world are not
beginning to meet the actual need," Blake said.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A REFUGEE ARRIVES IN THE U.S.?
The government contracts with different organizations that coordinate
the arrival of refugees. Those organizations welcome the refugees at
airports, help them find their first apartment and jobs, and provide
English-language classes. But the refugee program is based on a
principle of self-sufficiency, Blake says. Refugees are expected to be
self-sufficient within months of arrival.
COULD THE UNITED STATES SEE A WAVE OF REFUGEES?
It's not likely. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that
he wasn't aware of any pending policy changes when it comes to
allowing more refugees. Still, the United States has made exceptions
in the past. In 1975, the government helped tens of thousands of
refugees from South Vietnam and other nearby areas settle in the
United States after the fall of Saigon. In a statement issued to The
Associated Press, the State Department said the U.S. is committed to
its refugee admissions program and is aware of the needs of Syrians.
"In the last year, in light of the significant number of Syrian
refugees displaced in the Middle East region, we have made substantial
efforts to facilitate increased admissions from this population, and
aim to admit meaningfully increased numbers of Syrian refugees in
Fiscal Year 2016," said Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the U.S.
Department of State.
Received on Sun Sep 06 2015 - 17:44:58 EDT