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Press Release

IRC Poll: As Syria war turns seven, American public says ‘don’t send refugees back’ until Syria is safe

  • Seven years into the Syria war, IRC poll shows 60% of Americans don’t think Syrians should be sent back before it is safe; 80% of Americans think that Syria is dangerous for civilians
  • While united that Syria is unsafe for returns, Americans are politically polarized on welcoming refugees
  • 60% of Americans who expressed an opinion support refugee resettlement in the US, but new IRC figures show Syrian refugee arrivals in 2018 to plummet to less than 100 arrivals (2017 saw 6,500 Syrian refugees arrive in the US)

As the Syrian conflict marks its grim seven year milestone, a YouGov survey commissioned by the International Rescue Committee found the majority of Americans (60%), believe Syrians should not have to return home before its safe- with 59%% agreeing the war is not winding down.  

Americans agree (80%) that Syria is still dangerous, despite international interventions and initiatives such as ‘de-escalation zones’ and humanitarian pauses, as well as parallel political negotiations at the UN and at Astana. In a bleak and hopeless assessment of the future of Syria, just 4% of Americans believe there will be peace in the country within the next year.

As brutal offensives continue in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib, Syrian refugees are being increasingly pressured to return to Syria before their safety can be assured. In 2017, nearly 10,000 people a day fled their homes in Syria because of fighting. 

The poll found that 60% of Americans who expressed an opinion are supportive of resettling refugees in the US, yet the Trump administration is not only on track to miss its own historically low resettlement target this year, while IRC analysis projects only approximately 100 Syrian refugees will be resettled to the US in 2018 (compared to over 6,500 last year) - this represents 0.002% of all Syrian refugees.

The poll also reveals an increasingly politically-polarized view of refugees in the United States. Of those who gave an opinion, 74% of Clinton supporters are in favour of the government providing support to Syrians and Syrian refugees, compared to 45% of Trump supporters. Half of Trump supporters think that the US should not host any refugees from Syria, while only 7% of Clinton supporters share this view. And, of those who gave an opinion, while 93% of Clinton supporters do not believe Syrians should be sent back before it’s safe, only 71% of Trump supporters agree. 

Said David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC:

“These findings show the American public see Syria is more dangerous than ever and don’t believe it is safe for refugees to be returned. But the Trump administration is trying to cut foreign aid by a third and has essentially suspended resettlement of Syrian refugees. This abandonment of moral and strategic US leadership is clearly not the will of the American public.

“These findings also show Trump supporters are divided in their support for Syrian refugees - we need the 45% of Trump supporters who believe Syrians need US support to raise their voices and bring back a bipartisan consensus that refugees, victims of war a persecution, deserve.

At a minimum the Trump administration must live up to its historically low target of resettling 45,000 refugees this year, including appropriate and proportionate levels of Syrians - at least 15%, the same proportion as the previous administration and the bare minimum given conditions in Syria. And rather than cutting the State department budget the US should be investing in its diplomatic efforts to bring about an enduring ceasefire and eventually the peace that Syrians deserve.”


6.5 million Syrians have fled their country since the start of the war, with around 80% living in constant struggle in countries neighbouring Syria. A new report has found that the number of Syrians returning – mostly from internal displacement inside Syria – rose from 560,000 to 721,000 between 2016 and 2017, though for every returnee there were three more newly displaced because of the violence. 

Some 3.5 million people in Syria – nearly 10,000 a day – fled their homes in 2017. 

This survey was carried out by YouGov on 1st March 2017. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,113 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 2nd March 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.