Obama says US must not turn its back on Syria refugees

His comments at G20 in Turkey came after senior Republicans said the US should stop accepting refugees from Syria  

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Monday 16 November 2015 18:14 GMT
A group of migrants walks to a refugee reception centre after arriving by raft from Turkey onto the island of Lesbos
A group of migrants walks to a refugee reception centre after arriving by raft from Turkey onto the island of Lesbos (Getty)

Barack Obama has said the US had to do its part to take refugees from Syria and said it was important not to simply equate the Paris attacks with Islam.

“The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism….are Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam, it is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims,” he said, speaking at the G20 summit in Turkey.

“We also have to remember that many of these refugees are victims of terrorism themselves. That’s why they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values.”

Mr Obama, who also claimed Muslims needed to do more to ensure young people were "not infected" with the beliefs of extremists, spoke after several political leaders had suggested reducing the number of refugees from Syria. He also ruled out sending US ground troops to confront Isis.

The US has vowed to accept 10,000 Syrians by the end of next year - a modest figure compared to the numbers being resettled by many nations.

But some have said the US should shut its doors. The Republican governors of more than a dozen states - among them Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Indiana, Arkansas and Michigan - have said they would not allow Syrian refugees in their states.

Donald Trump on Monday said he thought it was time to consider the surveillance of mosques. “You can’t let them in because it would be one of the great Trojan horses,” he said of the refugees.

Meanwhile, two other Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, have said that any US assistance to Middle Eastern refugees should focus primarily on Christians fleeing persecution.

The Obama administration has said all refugees underwent thorough screening. Yet the president said it was wrong to impose a “religious test”.

“That's shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are,” he said.

Republican opposition to accepting more refugees from Syria has become more strident since it emerged that a Syrian passport, bearing the name Ahmed Almuhamed, was found near the remains of a suicide bomber at Paris' Stade de France on Friday night.

Mother Jones magazine said the passport was used by a refugee who entered Greece just six weeks ago, stoking fears that Isis members may be using the refugee crisis as cover. But Syrian passports, both stolen and forged, are popular on the black market, and it is unknown if Mr Almuhamed himself was the bomber.

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