More than half of Syrian refugees to US are children, official says

More than half of the Syrian refugees the US has admitted this year are children, officials said Friday in detailing stepped-up efforts to admit those fleeing the conflict in Syria.

The US was on track to meet its goal of welcoming 10,000 refugees by the end of September after getting off to slow start as it worked to increase its ability to process refugees in the Middle East, said Anne Richards, who serves as an assistant secretary of state for refugee and migration issues.

"We've welcomed 8,000 Syrian refugees so far this year and are very confident we will welcome at least 10,000 by the end of the fiscal year," she said.

US officials sought to allay concerns that terrorists might exploit the refugee process, detailing extensive screening and noting hundreds had been turned down due to security concerns.

Of those admitted so far 78 per cent were women and children, and more than half were children with 4,576 of the refugees under the age of 18.

The US had taken in 7,905 Syrians as of Thursday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, up significantly from the 2,805 refugees reported in the first eight months of the fiscal year that began October 1 through the end of May.

Amid pressure from European allies dealing with a flood of refugees from the ongoing Syrian civil war, US President Obama announced last year that his government was seeking to speed up the vetting process for Syrian asylum-seekers in order to be able to admit 10,000 during the next 12 months. The US had admitted just 1,800 from 2011 through last year.

The plan drew significant political backlash from Republicans and state governors concerned about the potential for would-be terrorists to enter the US through the programme. Washington responded by pointing to its rigorous screening of refugees before they arrive.

The issue has become a flash point in the presidential election, in which Republican nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly called for a ban on Muslims entering the US amid terrorist attacks in Europe and the US.

Last update: Fri, 05/08/2016 - 22:43
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