First Syrians arrive in United States under surge resettlement program for refugees

Syrian refugee Ahmad al Abboud waits with his family at the International Airport of Amman, Jordan on April 6, 2016.
Syrian refugee Ahmad al Abboud waits with his family at the International Airport of Amman, Jordan on April 6, 2016.

The first Syrian family to be resettled in the United States under a sped-up "surge operation" for refugees left Jordan on Wednesday and arrived in Kansas City, Missouri to start a new life.

Ahmad al Abboud, who arrived with his wife and five children, said that he is grateful to Jordan where he lived for three years after fleeing Syria's civil war. However, 45-year-old Syrian refugee from Homs added that he is ready to build a better life in the US.

"I'm happy. America is the country of freedom and democracy, there are jobs opportunities, there is good education, and we are looking forward to having a good life over there," Abboud said.

"I am ready to integrate in the US and start a new life," he added in Amman's airport before the family boarded a flight to Kansas City.

The family was living in Mafraq, north of Amman. Abboud could not find work and they were surviving on food coupons.

Abboud said that he wanted to learn English and find a job to support his family in the US.

A spokeswoman for the social services organisation helping resettle the family said that they arrived in Kansas City late Wednesday night.

About 1,000 Syrian refugees have moved to the US from Jordan since October 2015.

US President Barack Obama has aimed at resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees by Sept. 30. A resettlement center opened in Amman in February to meet that aim and nearly 600 people are interviewed every day at the center.

US ambassador to Jordan Alice Wells, who was at the airport to see the Abboud family depart, said that the temporary processing centre will be open until April 28.

The regional refugee coordinator at the US Embassy in Amman Gina Kassem said that while the target of 10,000 applies to Syrian refugees living around the world, most will be resettled from Jordan.

"The 10,000 (figure) is a floor and not a ceiling, and it is possible to increase the number," Kassem said.

Kassem also stated that the resettlement process usually takes 18 to 24 months but the surge operation will reduce the time to three months.

The United Nations Refugee Agency prioritises the most vulnerable cases for resettlement and refers them to the US to review, Kassem said adding that the priority is given to high-risk groups such as unaccompanied minors and victims of torture and gender-based violence.

"We do not have exclusions or look for families with certain education background, language skills or other socio-economic factors, and we do not cut family sizes," Kassem said.

Jordan shelters nearly 635,000 of the more than 4.7 million Syrians who have registered with the UN refugee agency after fleeing the war. The total number of Syrians in Jordan is more than 1.2 million, including those who arrived before the conflict began in 2011.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies