Four years of war in Syria has created what may well be the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. About a quarter million people have died, nearly four million are refugees, and 7.6 million have been displaced internally, according to the United Nations. Syria’s smaller neighbors are buckling under the weight of the crisis. Lebanon, a country smaller than Connecticut, is hosting 1.2 million Syrian refugees, while Jordan is hosting more than 600,000.
As of February, the latest U.N. data available, Brazil had issued over 6,000 humanitarian visas to Syrian refugees, while Switzerland had issued about 4,000. The United States, meanwhile, has admitted fewer than 1,000 refugees since the Syria crisis began.
That fact prompted Senator Dick Durbin, a onetime mentor and longtime ally of Barack Obama, and 13 fellow Senate Democrats to send a letter to the president deploring the “unacceptably low number” of Syria refugees admitted and urging the administration to “dramatically increase” it. The U.S. has “a moral, legal, and national security imperative” to lead on the issue, the letter stated. In an interview, Durbin added that lawmakers opposed to admitting more refugees should “reflect for a moment on history, when we turned away … Jewish refugees during World War II who were returned, sadly, to concentration camps and death.”