By Zachary Toillion
The U.S. has agreed to take in 10,000 refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, an increase from 2,000. A majority of presidential candidates from both parties appear supportive of the measure. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stated the U.S. should take in more refugees and called the Syrian crisis a “problem of epic proportions.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed support for accepting more refugees while calling for a global conference to coordinate help for the refugees.
The number of refugees the U.S. has committed to take in is small compared to previous efforts. In 1980, the U.S. took in over 200,000 from Vietnam and over 120,000 from Cuba shortly thereafter. After the 9/11 attacks, the number of refugees fell to under 30,000 amid concerns of terrorism. The number of refugees accepted in 2014 was just over 70,000, a number Secretary of State John Kerry speculated could rise to 100,000 in a closed-door meeting at Capitol Hill.
Many European countries have been reluctant to take in Syria’s refugees, with Britain, Norway and Finland taking in under 5,000 yearly. Germany has bucked this trend, committing to take in 500,000 refugees per year with talks to up that number to 800,000. Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, has taken in 1.7 million as of March 2015.
For the most part, Middle Eastern nations have been reluctant to take any Syrian refugees. None of the Gulf States have taken refugees, leaving those fleeing the war with another danger: crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Crossing this massive body of water to reach Europe has proven deadly for many refugees, over 50 percent of which are children. A notable exception is the neighboring country Lebanon, which has taken in 1.5 million refugees thus far.
An estimated seven million Syrians have been displaced due to the ongoing war in Syria.