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The civil war in Syria, exacerbated by military intervention by countries including the U.S., has left 5.5 million Syrians seeking asylum. (Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr/cc)

As Trump and May Claim Concern for Syrian Civilians, Critics Slam Leaders for Anti-Refugee Stance

"If the Trump administration truly cares about the fate of Syrian civilians, it can do far better in resettling Syrian refugees."

Julia Conley

While President Donald Trump's address to the nation suggested that he and his counterparts in France and the United Kingdom launched airstrikes out of concern for Syrian civilians, a number of critics pointed out that the leaders have shown little compassion for those same innocent people as nations have debated taking in Syrian refugees in recent months.

Under Trump, the number of Syrian refugees who have been granted asylum and resettled by the U.S. has plummeted,  dropping from more than 12,000 in 2016 to half that number last year. Less than 100 of the war-torn nation's 5.5 million refugees are expected to be allowed into the U.S. by the end of the current fiscal year in September. 

"If the Trump administration truly cares about the fate of Syrian civilians, it can do far better in resettling Syrian refugees," wrote the International Rescue Committee on Friday evening. "More than 40 people were reportedly killed in the suspected chemical attack on Douma, in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. That is as many Syrians who have been admitted to the United States as refugees this year."

In the UK, Labour politician David Lammy condemned his fellow members of Parliament for opposing the resettlement of refugee children, as some officials supported Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to march in lockstep with Trump, launching airstrikes on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons infrastructure.

In both the U.S. and the U.K., public opinion has strongly favored resettling refugees from Syria. Fifty-seven percent of Americans surveyed by Quinnipiac University urged their government to take in Syrians a year ago, after Trump launched airstrikes in the country following another suspected chemical attack.

Grassroots activists in the U.K. have urged  their government to welcome more asylum-seekers from Syria, while May has resisted, preferring to send aid to Middle Eastern countries to keep refugees in the region.

In a poll taken by the Clarion Project this week, more than 58 percent of Americans responded that the U.S. should not launch strikes against Syria in the wake of the apparent attack on Douma, while a similar poll  by Verdict in the U.K. showed that only 22 percent of Britons supported military intervention. 

Trump critics on social media expressed doubt that the president's concerned rhetoric regarding Syrian civilians would give way to a policy change regarding their resettlement.


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