Houston to receive large share of Syrian refugees

By Lomi Kriel | January 19, 2015 | Updated: January 19, 2015 4:45pm

Photo By Hussein Malla/STF

Syrian refugee children sit on the ground inside their tent home as they take their dinner at a Syrian refugee camp, in Deir Zannoun village in the Bekaa valley, eastern Lebanon, on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. A snow storm is expected to hit Lebanon Monday affecting Syrian refugees, many of whom live in tents without heating. The government estimates there are about 1.5 million Syrians in Lebanon, about one-quarter of the total population. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

U.S. State Department officials expect about 2,000 Syrian refugees to arrive this year with as many as 10,000 by the end of 2016. Houston, which leads the nation in the number of overall refugee resettlements, is expected to receive a lion's share and has already resettled 12 Syrians since the fiscal year began in October.

Violence between loyalists of President Bashar Assad and rebels trying to topple his rule has caused more than 3 million people to escape the embattled country, mainly to neighboring Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, and displaced nearly 8 million people inside Syria.

Though the United States takes in 70,000 refugees each year, more than all other countries combined, aid groups have slammed it and other wealthy nations for their slow response to the Syrian crisis. Hundreds have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea on makeshift smuggler ships, and Syria this year topped Afghanistan for the first time in three decades as the country with the largest refugee population under U.N. care. This month Lebanon began turning back Syrians at the border saying they are simply overwhelmed by the 1.5 million Syrians in the country, about one-quarter of the total population.

In contrast, about 400 refugees have resettled in the U.S. since the war broke out in 2011 and about half of those had likely applied before the crisis erupted, said Larry Bartlett, U.S. State Department's Refugee Admissions program director.

He said the U.N. refugee agency, to whom the U.S. looks for referrals, only began making recommendations late last year and the U.S. government's stringent security screening can take up to 24 months. Some nations, like Germany and Sweden, also have quotas for the number of refugees from each country they can accept each year and the refugee agency wanted to make sure to fill those spots, he said. In the past four months, the U.S. has received about 200 Syrians, of which nearly one-fifth came to Texas. The state in the past three years has surpassed more populous California to become the top destination for refugees, largely because of the strong job market and relatively cheap cost of living.

See the article from the Houston Chronicle here: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Houston-to-receive-large-share-of-Syrian-refugees-6025582.php


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