Political Focus: The refugee crisis

Melissa Deatsch, Political Columnist

Leaders from the G20 community met earlier this week to discuss possible solutions to international issues such as trade, terrorism and climate change. The G20 is a group of 20 major economies across the world that gathers to discuss policy issues that have an international effect. 

In a statement released by the European Union, EU President Donald Tusk shared his expectation of other countries to step up and help during this crisis because Europe’s capabilities are “close to the limits.”

What’s the Issue?

According to Tusk, the number of migrants that have fled due to instability in their home countries has reached 6.5 million. A large number of these migrants are coming from Syria, which has been strewn with devastating conflict due to a civil war that began in 2011. Violence in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and many more have also contributed to that number.

The Syrian War has forced half of the population from their homes. According to numbers released by the United Nations in April, 4.1 million of those displaced have moved abroad. Many have fled to neighboring counties such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. However, the number of asylum requests in Europe doubled from 2014 to 2015.

What is the United States doing to help?

The Obama administration set a goal of accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees by this October. That milestone was reached early, on Aug. 29. According to a 2015 New York Times analysis, the U.S. only accepted 1,900 during the first four years of the Syrian War, so this number seems like a major milestone. 

While this milestone may be significant for the U.S., this number pales in comparison to many other countries. For example, Canada has accepted 25,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015.

What do the candidates think?

Last fall, when President Obama stated his goal of 10,000 refugees in the fiscal year 2016, Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton urged him to increase that number to 65,000. Meanwhile, Republican nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the suspension of the Syrian refugee acceptance program.

The main argument backing Donald Trump and many other Republicans’ calls for suspension is that our current screening system cannot ensure that refugees hoping to enter the U.S. don’t have intentions of terrorism.

Trump has made claims that there is no vetting system in place for refugees hoping to enter the U.S., which others have proven to be a major exaggeration. 

What is the current system?

By the time a refugee’s name reaches the U.S., they have already been initially vetted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Their information is then ran through federal terrorism and criminal databases, and the refugees are interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security. 

Additional security checks depend on the refugee’s country of origin. The process can take over two years, and is completed before a refugee sets foot in the U.S., according to Politifact.com. 

While Trump’s claims that there is no system in place are inaccurate, the system that does exist is certainly nowhere near foolproof. Major calls for concern have come from the lack of data the U.S. has in areas such as Syria.

The head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, stated to Congress last October that “the difficulty in collecting precise intelligence on terrorist intention and the status of particular terrorists plots is increasing over time.”

Additionally, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged that there are gaps in data availability.

What you should you think about?

Trump’s proposal to suspend the refugee resettlement program has been criticized for dehumanizing the refugees who have been fleeing their countries.

So what do you think? What’s more important to you — prevention against terrorist attacks on American soil, or access to a better life for those whose lives have been uprooted by violence in their home country?