The International Rescue Committee (IRC), which so far has resettled 270 Syrians to the United States, said today that the country’s commitment to accept between 5,000 and 8,000 Syrian refugees before the end of 2016 can only be a first step. According to the IRC, the figure doesn’t come close to addressing the crisis in and around Syria, which is now engulfing Europe where Germany, for example, expects the number of refugees and asylum seekers to this year reach 800,000.

Last year UNHCR, the UN refugee resettlement agency, called on the international community to resettle 130,000 Syrian refugees before the end of 2016. Today the IRC reiterates its call on the US government, long recognized as a leader in humanitarian response, to resettle half of that number – 65,000 – before the end of 2016, a call that was endorsed by fourteen members of the U.S. Senate in May.

In almost five years of war, the United States has resettled a mere 1,541 Syrian refugees to this country. Of that number, the IRC has resettled 270 to cities across the United States, including a businessman and his family who fled the bombing of Aleppo, Syria in 2012. The family now lives in New Jersey. Also, a carpenter from Homs, Syria who fled with his family and now lives in Georgia. Each family has expressed great gratitude to the United States for the sanctuary and the opportunities for safe and secure life. But there are far more who, to date, have not been given the opportunity to be considered for refugee resettlement.

Conditions in the Syria region, already grave, continue to worsen. One of every four residents in Lebanon, a country whose economy already was struggling, is now a refugee. In camps along the Iraqi border, Syrian refugees languish with little respite or hope that the conflict will end soon. Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee camp is now the second-largest refugee camp in the world. There is no doubt that the overall humanitarian aid response must be stepped up. A vital component of that response is a robust refugee resettlement program for the most vulnerable.

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee said:

"The US has historically been the world leader in recognizing the moral obligation to resettle refugees. But in the four years of the Syria crisis there has been inertia rather than leadership.  As the German government calmly says that it expects 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers in 2015, it is vital for the US to step up its response.

"Refugee resettlement is a proven way of giving people a chance to remake their lives.  And from Georgia to San Diego the small numbers of Syrians who have been admitted have shown an ability to contribute to the US economy and society.

“Not only are Syrians resorting to desperate measures to seek a better life for themselves and their families in Europe, but they are dying in the process. The Mediterranean Sea has become the graveyard for desperate refugees seeking safety and a better life.

“The IRC renews its call to the US government to lead and resettle 65,000 Syrian refugees before the end of 2016.

“The IRC is heartened by the glimpses of humanitarianism which are pushing through. Ordinary citizens in countries like Iceland, Germany and Sweden who are taking it upon themselves to welcome refugees into their communities.”