Over four million refugees have fled war torn Syria since 2011 due to the rise of ISIS and the civil war that has raged there for years. Nearly half have escaped into Turkey (just under 2 million), with most of the rest attempting entry into the European Union, leading to a political crisis for many nations there. While most developed nations, especially in the west, recognize the necessity of protecting those who are simply trying to survive, when it comes time to actually do something, it seems that many citizens in those nations are loath to actually act.
The refugee crisis has now become the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. ISIS continues rampaging across the Middle East, while nations far and wide stake out positions on various sides and backing different factions.
The Syrian government has been primarily receiving support from Russia and Iran, but countries from China to Venezuela have either overtly or covertly joined in as well. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies, including France, the United Kingdom, and most of the (Sunni) Arab League have been supporting the primary opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Additionally, several other groups have entered the fray with varying degrees of support, including Al Nusra and their backers, Al Qaeda. Of course, ISIS is the primary threat to any other faction, as they are the most extreme and violent group of all, fighting not only to gain power but to destroy people and even history in the region.
With virtually every major power not only in the region but in the world staking out a position for one side or another, it’s the civilians who get caught in the middle. In desperate attempts to flee the fighting, they cross into Turkey or attempt to cross the Mediterranean to arrive in nations such as Greece and Macedonia. Thousands have died in the process, and when they arrive they may be on the receiving end of bigotry and hostility, but it’s still preferable to living in a warzone.
As millions flee into Turkey and the European Union, the United States has taken in just 1,500. No, we didn’t forget a comma nor leave off any zeroes, 1,500 is the total number of refugees the United States has taken since the beginning of the war. If that seems like a ridiculously low number to you, you are not alone, especially given the American role in destabilizing the region with the Iraq War. That’s why President Obama announced on September 10 that we will be scaling up the number of refugees allowed into the country–to 10,000 next year.
The number is still a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed, but it is still a vast improvement. However, a xenophobic movement has gained momentum in the United States, stoked primarily by the presidential race and particularly by candidate Donald Trump. Most of the racist rhetoric is directed at Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, but the immigration system is broken so badly in the United States that it has led to the lumping of refugees fleeing wars and immigrants who come primarily for work together, regardless of why they are coming, let alone where they are from.
The United States is one of only a handful of nations that could handle an influx of refugees, due to its particular history of bringing people from across the globe in. The numbers are also in the country’s favor since even allowing every single refugee from Syria in would result in just over a one percent increase in population in the nation. Currently, only 75,000 refugees are allowed into the United States per fiscal year from all nations, an extremely small number given the nature of the emergency.
Still, for those 10,000 souls seeking safety and a place to live it will make a huge difference, as it will give them a chance to survive in a stable nation with much lower risk than if they were to remain in Syria or even go to neighboring gulf states–which have been reluctant to take them in. Germany and other northern European nations have led the charge so far among western nations, and the time has arrived for the United States to do its part.