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The Refugee Opportunity

First Published JCF Newsletter September 2016

By GARY ALLEY

This week the UN held a first-ever summit on the 65.3 million refugees and migrants in the world.  During this conference hosted in New York City, President Obama met with leaders of Jordan, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Canada and Ethiopia, along with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in hopes of gaining $3 billion in pledges for the refugee work.  Obama also met with 51 U.S. CEO’s, including Facebook, Twitter, MasterCard, and others, receiving $650 million in pledged refugee support from them as well. 

This staggering sum of 65.3 million displaced peoples is the most since World War 2.  They include 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million migrants.  Of the 21.3 million refugees during 2015, the top three countries bleeding its citizens were Syria (4.9-6.1 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and Somalia (1.1 million).  Of those Syrian refugees, it is estimated Turkey has 2.7 million, Lebanon 1.5 million, and Jordan 1.2 million.

In addition, more refugees and migrants are dying this year as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in overcrowded, dilapidated crafts on their way from Africa to Europe.  At least three thousand have perished so far in 2016, already surpassing 2015’s total.  This week, a boat carrying around 600 migrants capsized off the coast of Egypt with many confirmed dead.

An overcrowded refugee camp in Greece was set on fire this week on the isle of Lesbos, as the European Union continues to grapple with the refugee conundrum.  Greece shelters over 60,000 refugees barred from entering Europe since the closure of borders last year.  According to the Greek government, there are more than 13,000 refugees on five islands in facilities built to house fewer than 8,000.

With regard to the United States’ response to the refugee crisis, a recent article from Voice of America noted,

Historically, the U.S. has run a generous refugee resettlement program. In 1980, the country admitted more than 230,000 refugees, and through most of the following two decades, the number remained well above 100,000 a year, according to State Department data.

“Every president has brought a considerable number of refugees, so this is nothing new,” said Lavinia Limon, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants, a large refugee resettlement agency based outside Washington. “The president that brought the most refugees every year was President George Herbert Walker Bush. After that was President [Ronald] Reagan and President [Jimmy] Carter.”

But the number of annual refugee admissions has slipped under 100,000 in the 15 years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as the U.S. briefly stopped admitting refugees from countries with an al-Qaida presence and put in place tighter screening procedures.

FBI Director James Comey has commented that the current refugee screening procedures of the United States can take up to two years for each refugee and is one of the most rigorous in the world.  Despite the United States’ reticence (see Texas recently) to receive Middle Eastern refugees, they accepted 10,801 from Syria last year.  Of those 10,801 Syrian refugees only 56 were Christians.  Even though Christians make up 10% of the Syrian refugees, the United States’ Syrian refugee total was shockingly only one half of one percent Christian.