What America Owes the Refugees Pouring Into Europe


(Photo: UNHCR Photo Unit / Flickr)

The vision of hundreds of thousands of desperate human beings fleeing airstrikes, terror, and violence from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and beyond has brought the stark human cost of today’s “anti-terror” wars to the front pages. The heart-breaking photo of one small boy, still clad in a “red shirt, blue jeans, and little sneakers,” as a now-viral poem goes, washed up on the Turkish shore, has brought the horror of that stark reality into our hearts.

Indeed, the refugee crisis growing out of the multi-faceted Syrian war and others is now a full-blown global emergency. It’s not only an emergency because it’s now reaching Europe. It’s an emergency several years in the making as conditions have deteriorated throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to Syria, refugees are also pouring into Europe — or dying as they try — from Libya, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Bangladesh, and beyond.

But it’s the war in Syria — now involving a host of regional, sectarian, and global actors all fighting their own wars to the last Syrian — that lies at the bloody center of the current crisis. And here the United States bears no small responsibility.

The Syrian war — and particularly the rise of ISIS — has everything to do with U.S. actions dating back to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, which gave rise to ISIS in the first place. Even now the U.S. airstrikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq are escalating the war in both places.

So emergency responses, particularly from the United States, need to start — though they must not end — with Syria. The Obama administration’s decision to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country next year is a welcome step, but not remotely adequate.

Here’s what needs to happen next.

Immediately, the United States should announce:

  • An increase in daily U.S. refugee assistance to the World Food Program and the UN Human Rights Committee equivalent to the daily cost of U.S. military action against ISIS — that is, about $9 million a day.
  • A decision to immediately accept 65,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, as called for by leading human rights organizations.

In next 30 days, Washington should roll out:

  • A plan to parole desperate refugees into the United States on humanitarian grounds. They should be provided with temporary protected status as long as conditions in their home countries remain dangerous. Once they’re in the United States, safe and provided with medical care, housing, work, education, and other support, longer-term protection can be determined on a case by case basis. Such an administrative decision can be made by the White House alone.

In next 45 days, the White House should announce:

  • That the United States will provide 28 percent of needed emergency refugee assistance, equivalent to the U.S. share of global wealth. That means…
  • That it will immediately pay 28 percent of the current United Nations refugee relief request, which totals $5.5 billion to support almost 6 million Syrian and related refugees through the end of this year. That would amount to approximately $1.5 billion in U.S. contributions by the end of 2015.
  • That the United States will accept 28 percent of those refugees from Syria (and others forced to flee as a result of the Syrian war) who need refuge abroad. That means 28 percent of up to 4 million refugees as determined by the United Nations, or up to 1.12 million refugees who are allowed to come to the United States.

It should be noted that fewer than 1,000 Syrians have been allowed into the United States this year, while Germany has already agreed to take in 800,000. The limits on numbers of refugees allowed into the United States each year are set by the White House, and fluctuate for political and policy reasons. (For example, in just over a decade, beginning with the decline of the Soviet Union in 1990, more than 378,000 Soviet Jews immigrated to the United States. In 1992 alone, more than 62,000 entered the country.)

Finally, in next 60 days, the U.S. should develop:

  • A new plan, now that the Iran nuclear deal is being implemented, to engage with Iran as well as all other regional and global players in a renewed United Nations-led diplomatic and arms embargo initiative to end the Syrian war.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

  • ObonzoLovesBananas

    Members of the death cult must be sent to Saudi Arabia. Evil must reside with evil.

  • Ginny

    The refugee situation is the result of 100 years of short sighted, failed foreign policy regarding the Middle East, but alas, Europe and the U.S. do not want brown skinned Muslims in their countries. Period.

  • Concerned50

    President Obama can change Republicans “Endless
    War” to “Feed the World” and here is how! The US Constitution
    puts no limits on making and issuing money as long as it serves the public
    good. There is no public good in allowing the Pentagon to lose $8.5 Trillion. There is no public good for
    the Federal Reserve giving Trillions
    to foreign banks and corporations. And there is no public good for Congress
    giving Trillions to the rich, fossil
    fuel industry and other multinational corporations while watching millions
    going hungry and homeless in the richest country in the world. Republicans
    budget will increase war spending and cut spending on food and resources for
    the poor. Republicans are refusing to pass and fund legislation to help 31
    million US children in poverty with 7.4 million in extreme poverty living on
    less than $2.00 a day, many suffering from PTSD and brain damage! Republicans
    continue to refuse funding for the billions of children in the world that are
    suffering from hunger and hunger related deaths.

    HEINOUS is it would take less than $500 billion, not Trillions to bring everyone in the US and the World out of
    poverty. There is absolutely no excuse that if the Federal Reserve can
    unilaterally give Trillions to
    foreign banks, President Obama can unilaterally give as much money needed to
    bring every man, women and child to bring them out of poverty, not only in the
    US but Globally. President Obama, time to save the children from the horrors of
    poverty, violence and war. “Feed the World”

    9-9-15: Global Leaders Using Refugee Plight to Push Military Escalation.
    Observers say war is the cause—not the solution—of the ongoing humanitarian
    crisis http://www.commondreams.org/…/global-leaders-using…

    Extreme US Poverty: 44% of children living in
    poverty, with 23.4% of our children are living on less than $2.00 a day http://www.politicususa.com/…/republican-welfare-reform…

    9-9-15: GOP offers $3.8T budget that boosts defense, repeals Obamacare.
    WASHINGTON — House

    Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a $3.8 trillion
    budget plan for next year that effectively breaks tight budget limits on
    military spending while promising a familiar roster of big cuts to social
    programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. http://www.msn.com/…/gop-offers-dollar38t…/ar-AA9SBYd

    How Much to eliminate US poverty? http://www.demos.org/…/how-much-money-would-it-take…

    How Much Money Would it Take to Eliminate Global
    Poverty? http://www.truth-out.org/…/19513-do-we-need-another…

    Obama orders US to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees http://news.yahoo.com/obama-orders-us-admit-10-000-syrian…#

    Obama to Receive Second Nobel Peace Prize

    1. The President can unilaterally without Republican congressional approval
    make the Federal Reserve (The Fed) set up a Basic Guaranteed Income program by
    issuing credit cards for services and food in the total of $1,200 per person,
    per month. http://www.nationofchange.org/even-council-foreign-relations-saying-it-time-rain-money-main-street-1409641381

    2. The President can unilaterally without Republican congressional approval
    make the US Treasury Issue a Coin in the total amount it would cost for every
    person to receive a Basic Guaranteed Income of $1,000 a month.

    TRUTH BOMB – A fact spoken in clear, easy to understand terms and without bias.
    Please copy and paste freely.


  • constitution

    deport one ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT for each vetted PERSECUTED Christian Syrian

  • itaia

    Think “Rumsfeld & Kissinger”: If Europe, especially Germany is flooded with exiles from the Near East, Afghanistan and Africa, the nationalist substance of each nations is diluted. English as lingua franca becomes even more relevant. The old stock Europeans will increasingly become more “dependent” on the USA. Got it ? Refugees serve U.S. global control.