A chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma in eastern Ghouta, Syria, killed at least 49 people on April 7, according to the Syrian American Medical Society. The civil defense rescue service estimates the number could be as high as 150. The incident came three days after the anniversary of a similar attack on Khan Shaykhun, another Syrian town.
President Donald Trump has denounced the assault of the Syrian government on its civilians and claimed, “If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out. We cannot allow atrocities like that. ... Everybody’s going to pay a price.”
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
....to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
However, the president’s condemnation of Assad’s chemical attacks mean nothing in light of his discriminatory, xenophobic immigrant policies, which prevent refugees, like embattled Syrians, from entering the United States.
Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, 6 million people have been displaced inside Syria and around 5.6 million are seeking refugee outside of of their homeland. Neighboring Lebanon hosts the largest population of Syrian refugees estimated at 1 million while 3.5 million others are living in other Middle Eastern countries like Turkey.
Trump’s travel ban is a departure from U.S. historical policies, which has previously led the cause of refugee settlements. In his final year in office, former President Barack Obama increased the U.S. refugee settlement quota to 110,000 per year from 70,000.
However, since Trump assumed office, he has done the exact opposite.
Although the president’s latest version of the travel ban is still pending review, Trump capped the refugee quota at 45,000 in October, the lowest number in U.S. history. According to the State Department, the United States has resettled 10,876 refugees this year, out of which only 44 are Syrians. Last year, in April, almost five times as many refugees were settled, with 5,935 Syrians among them.
Trump also recently a cut on funds to the United Nation Relief and Works Agency, which provides humanitarian aid to several Middle East countries in crisis, including Palestine and Syria, and countries like Jordan and Lebanon that host Syrian refugees.
Refugee settlement groups have estimated there are tens of thousands of refugees who are currently waiting for an answer from the U.S. government — and Washington’s decision to implement stricter vetting measures is not helping them any.
Tweets and empty threats alone are not going to save Syrian lives — but opening up refugee status to them might.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: White Helmets/Handout via REUTERS