WASHINGTON — Today, days after visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan where 80,000 men, women, and children have retreated from war, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called on the U.S. Congress to immediately pass an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to increase food assistance to refugees and increase the U.S. capacity to accept tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. During his visit to Jordan, Murphy – the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism – saw firsthand the critical responsibility that the United States and its allies have in providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees.
Murphy released the following statement:
“Last week, I visited the Za’atari Refugee Camp, the largest Syrian refugee camp, now home to 80,000 people - mostly women and young children - who fled Syria in fear for their lives. The horrific scenes unfolding in front of me were seared into my brain. Children as young as six digging trenches in the sand for sewage and feces. Young boys and girls kept home from school to do hard labor because the meager wage they earned is the only way their family could afford to eat. Girls in their early teens sold into marriage so the rest of the family could continue to afford to live in this perpetual state of despair. The United States has always been a refuge for those fleeing persecution, war, and misery, and we cannot continue to sit on the sidelines of a humanitarian crisis on such a massive scale.
“Congress must take urgent action to address this problem. If we are prepared to sink $500-600 million per year into the failed Syria train-and-equip program, which has produced not a single capable fighter inside the civil war, the United States should spend at least as much to fill desperately needed funding gaps for refugee humanitarian aid and resettlement.
“Congress should immediately pass an emergency supplemental funding bill, of at least $500 million, with two parts. First, we must increase funding to the World Food Program and the other international organizations supporting Syrian refugees. The World Food Program has run out of money, again, to feed the millions of refugees who live outside the camps. The U.S. can't let this happen. Second, the United States should provide funding to significantly increase the number of Syrian refugees screened and admitted into the United States. The State Department can't screen refugees on their current budget without stealing from other accounts that address the crisis or lend in the fight against ISIL.
“As several of my colleagues noted in a letter earlier this year, the United States has a long tradition of providing safe haven to refugees fleeing from tyranny, violence and persecution. We welcomed approximately 182,000 refugees during the Vietnam War, and 169,000 refugees from the Balkans. Yet we have only offered refuge to 1,500 Syrians. Additional funding is needed to perform the rigorous security screening necessary to admit individuals into the United States, and we should continue to prioritize vulnerable populations such as women and children and victims of torture.
“The scale of human suffering is too much for any one country to fully address, so we should also demand that other countries bear their fair share of the burden. Syria’s neighbors – Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon in particular – have taken in massive numbers of refugees and their own systems are at a breaking point. But the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Gulf states have the capacity to do much more.
“The brutality and callousness of ISIL and the Assad regime are fully responsible for this humanitarian disaster. Ultimately the Syrian civil war must end. But until that time, the United States must lead a global humanitarian effort to support refugee children and their families.”
Last week, Murphy and U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.) traveled to Jordan, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, where they held meetings with officials to discuss ongoing anti-ISIL military operations in Iraq and Syria, and the spiraling humanitarian crisis resulting from those conflicts. As the United States considers additional refugees for resettlement, U.S. security considerations remain paramount. Before being permitted to enter the United States, all admitted refugees undergo extensive background checks and vetting of their biographic and biometric data against a broad array of U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism databases.