US administration is considering welcoming Syrian refugees

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SHAFAQNA - The Obama administration is “actively considering” ways to help relieve the European migrant crisis, and among the options on the table is a massive resettlement of “refugees” inside the United States.

Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told the Associate Press the United States is in contact with countries in the Middle East and Europe grappling with the migration of nearly 400,000 Middle Eastern and African migrants into Europe.

Boogaard did not elaborate on specific measures being considered, but said they included “refugee resettlement.”

“Many are fleeing the civil war in Syria and areas in Iraq under the control of Islamic State militants,” the AP reported.

Will Obama make announcement on refugees during pope’s visit?

With Pope Francis due to arrive in the United States Sept. 23 to address Congress and the United Nations, some are speculating that Obama could be gearing up for a big announcement on refugees timed in accordance with the pope’s visit.

“Obama might announce it when the pope is here,” Ann Corcoran, author of the blog site Refugee Resettlement Watch, told reporters. “That would be perfect timing. If I’m Obama, I see that as the perfect opportunity for maximum world exposure on this issue. So my guess is something big is going to be announced.”

Corcoran said she would not be surprised if Obama announced the U.S. will resettle 150,000 or more refugees in 2016, more than double the amount it has taken in in recent years.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump, in an interview with MSNBC over the weekend, was asked whether the U.S. should assist the European countries and accept some of the migrants.

“We have so many problems, and the answer is, possibly, yes,” Trump said.

Big business

Refugee resettlement is a nearly $1.5 billion program in the U.S. overseen by the U.S. State Department in which nine private agencies resettle foreign refugees into more than 190 cities and towns across the U.S. The agencies are paid by the federal government to do this work and they in turn subcontract with smaller agencies and church groups to carry out the work of finding shelter for the refugees, signing them up for government welfare programs and getting their children enrolled in public schools.

More than 95 percent of all refugees who enter the United States are hand selected by the U.N. refugee agency. The nearly $1.5 billion price tag does not include the cost of providing social welfare benefits and education to the refugees.

Saudi Arabia, Gulf states take zero refugees

While Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have been swamped with Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing ISIS and other jihadist groups, some of the most wealthy Middle East countries have been notably absent from the discussion of where Syrian Muslims should be welcomed.

The Saudis haven’t offered to take any refugees, nor have they been publicly called upon by the U.N. and the resettlement agencies to do so. Ditto for Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, even though these states offer geographic proximity and a common culture based on Islam and Shariah law.

This lack of responsiveness by the Saudis and other Gulf states was spotlighted by Amnesty International, which also noted that wealthy countries such as Japan, Russia, Singapore and South Korea also have taken zero refugees from Syria.

To date, the Obama administration has committed to taking 5,000 to 8,000 Syrians by the end of 2016, about 1,500 of which have already entered the U.S. and are now being resettled in various cities and towns.

Germany opens its doors wide

Germany has committed to take 800,000 refugees this year, by far the largest commitment of any country and more than four times the number of refugees Germany accepted last year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that Germany could take 500,000 refugees annually “for years,” according to the Guardian. She told the BBC that the “breathtaking” influx of refugees into Germany will “occupy and change” Germany in the coming years.

She said Germany would speed up asylum procedures and build extra housing but called on other E.U. countries to help.

The U.K. will take 20,000 over five years and France agreed to receive 24,000. Venezuela announced Tuesday it would take 20,000 Syrians.

But not all European countries are laying out the welcome mat for the refugees, more than 95 percent of which they know are Muslims even though talk of religious affiliation is taboo in the mainstream European press just as it is in America.

Denmark has placed advertisements in Lebanese newspapers announcing tighter regulations and cuts in welfare provisions in an attempt to warn off asylum seekers. The advertisement published on Monday said that social assistance for newly arrived refugees was being reduced by up to 50 percent, Al-Jazeera reported. Hungary, whose prime minister, Viktor Orban, said last week Hungary does not want to lose its Christian heritage, is also in a defensive posture and plans to build an 8-foot fence along its southern border.

Debate heating up in United States

In the U.S., the debate is heating up concerning how many Syrians should be accepted into American cities and towns. This is a pivotal time of year for refugee lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

Each year between Sept. 18 and Sept. 30 the White House sends a letter to Congress outlining the federal ceiling for refugees that will be allowed into the country over the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The current 70,000 ceiling may be jacked up considerably to accommodate the Syrian refugees and now the migrant crisis in Europe.

 

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