US governors hold conference call on Syrian refugees

White House hosts conference call for US governors on resettlement of Syrian refugees after 30 governors refuse to accept them

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

White House

Thirty-four US governors held a 90-minute conference call in the White House in Washington on Tuesday regarding the intake of Syrian refugees, after a number of governors said they would not accept refugees in their states.

At least thirty governors, mostly Republicans, refused to open their doors to Syrian refugees after attacks in the French capital Paris by the DAESH terrorist group killed at least 129 people on Friday.

Reports stated that a Syrian passport was found near the remains of one of the suicide bombers, who is believed to have entered Europe via Greece as a refugee. However, French authorities have cast doubts over the authenticity of the passport.

Following the attacks, the governors of Alabama and Michigan announced on Sunday that they would not accept Syrian refugees.

The administration of the US President Barack Obama reassured the governors that refugees being admitted into states will undergo the proper security checks, while some of the governors urged better communication regarding the process of screening and resettling refugees.

“There was a real sense of frustration from all the governors that there is just a complete lack of transparency and communication coming from the federal government,” one conference call participant was quoted saying by Bloomberg.

One of the opponents of the refugee resettlement policy, Maggie Hassan, the Democrat governor of New Hampshire, also expressed her concerns over the lack of consultation before refugees are resettled in their states.

Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey also complained "Arizona is entitled to a formal consultation under federal law, and this conference call did not meet that requirement," Ducey’s spokesman said.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who led the call, vowed to improve cooperation and dialogue with the National Governors Association.

"The federal government reaffirmed that refugees go through the highest level of security screening of any category of traveler to the United States," Washington’s Democrat governor Jay Inslee said in a statement.

Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Simon Henshaw, and Deputy Director of the FBI Mark Giuliano were also present in the meeting, as well as representatives from the National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Health and Human Services.

So far, only 2,500 Syrian refugees have been admitted by the US since the war in Syria started in March 2011, but the Obama administration aims to resettle 10,000 more before the beginning of 2016.

Around half of the population of Syria has been displaced by the war, with around 5 million fleeing to neighbouring countries and another 7 million displaced within Syria.

Turkey has taken in the most Syrian refugees, with around 2.2 million. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have also fled to Europe, creating the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

TRTWorld and agencies