Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Union Square in New York City Saturday calling on the United States government to play a bigger role in alleviating the plight of Syrian refugees.
The rally comprised a coalition of activists from leftist, immigrant rights, labor movement and Black Lives Matter advocacy groups with members from the Arab-American community in support of Syrian refugees and other refugees displaced from Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are demanding that Washington allow at least 65,000 refugees into the US by the end of 2016.
“The demand to accept more refugees to the US Is not a moral obligation but rather a responsibility considering the complicit role of the US in the Syrian war,” said Mona Kareem, a New York-based Arab writer who attended the rally.
The US, which has said it wants to see an end to the rule of President Bashar Al Assad and backed groups opposed to his government, has admitted only 1,500 since the onset of the Syrian crisis in 2011; 300 more are expected to be processed next month.
The White House announced last week that it will prepare to ‘scale up’ the number of resettled refugees to 10,000 over the next fiscal year, beginning this November.
The demonstrators are also demanding that Europe ‘unconditionally’ open up its borders to the increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers displaced by the violence and ruin of the war in Syria, now entering it’s fifth year.
“I’m here in solidarity with Syrian refugees and all refugees,” said Amala Lane, who took part in the rally. “People are not finding the way to sustain themselves because there’s so much violence, uncertainty and chaos.”
“The United Nations [High] Commissioner for Refugees recommended that the United States take in 65,000 [refugees], 10,000 is nothing,” said Lane.
The White House also says that it will be using its influence to encourage other countries in the region and around the world, even countries that are, in the words of John Earnest, the White House press secretary, “not traditional donors to those kinds of efforts to ramp up their participation”.
The UNHCR says there are currently more than four million registered refugees displaced by the Syrian war, concentrated in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Turkey in the lead, is hosting close to two million refugees, while Lebanon is hosting above a million refugees.
Meanwhile, the number of Syrians seeking asylum in Europe continues to increase.
The UNHCR says there have been around 350,000 asylum applications in Europe since 2011, concentrated in Germany and Sweden.
Last week, European countries said they will bump up their quotas for asylum seekers, with Britain pledging to resettle up to 20,000 refugees over the next four-and-half years, and France and Germany an extra 55,000 refugees over the next two years.
The announcements come as part of a European Union plan to take in an extra 120,000 refugees across Europe, a response prompted by the increasing number of refugees showing up on the shores and borders of European countries.
By Sulafah Al Shami for The BRICS Post in New York