With the refugee crisis in Europe worsening dramatically, the Obama administration announced on Thursday that it would accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. That’s a significant step: Over the past four years, as millions of Syrians have been displaced by a brutal civil war, the United States has admitted only about 1,500 Syrian refugees. But humanitarian advocates say President Barack Obama’s move doesn’t go nearly far enough.
The US offer “is cold comfort to the victims of the Syrian conflict,” said International Rescue Committee president David Miliband in a press release Friday. “With 4 million living in limbo and tens of thousands making desperate choices to reach safety, the US has a moral responsibility to lead and is fully equipped to respond in a far more robust way.” Part of the solution, experts argue, is for the United States to help organize a program to send refugees to developed countries around the world. After all, they point out, we’ve done it before.
“This is not science fiction,” said Francois Crepeau, the United Nations’s special rapporteur for the human rights of migrants. “We resettled almost 2 million Indochinese 40 years ago. We can do it again.”
After the end of the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of people attempted to flee Southeast Asia, mostly from Vietnam, by riding rickety, overloaded boats to nearby countries. Those countries, like many European countries during the current crisis, felt overwhelmed by the unyielding and disorganized flow of people arriving on their shores. They eventually announced that they would refuse to take in any more “boat people,” prompting the international community to create a global resettlement program with the help of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR ultimately resettled 1.3 million Southeast Asians in countries around the world, including more than 800,000 in the United States.