BEIRUT (AP) — An international aid group on Thursday called on the United States to resettle 65,000 Syrians before the end of 2016, highlighting Washington's slow response to the massive refugee crisis generated by the civil war.
David Miliband, the President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, told The Associated Press in Beirut that the whole international community shares responsibility for the consequences of the Syrian civil war.
Syria's civil war has claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people and driven some 9 million of the prewar population of 23 million from their homes. Of those, more than 3.8 million have fled to neighboring countries.
Miliband, a former U.K. Foreign Secretary, said the U.S. has traditionally taken half the world's registered refugees who resettle in third countries and that the United Nations says it wants 130,000 refugees from Syria resettled in the wealthier countries of the world by the end of 2016.
Half of that number would be 65,000. To date, the U.S. has resettled just 648 Syrians, less than 1 percent of that figure.
"We are calling for scale and speed in response to this crisis. The Syria crisis shows no signs of abating," he said.
"You don't want people caught up in bureaucracy, especially if they are orphans or widows. You don't want them caught up in bureaucracy for years and years," Miliband said.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard said during a visit to Lebanon last week that between 1,000 and 2,000 Syrian refugees will be brought to the U.S. by the end of September and several thousand more in 2016.
"It's good that the pace of U.S. resettlement is rising from the very low figures of the first four years, but it certainly needs to improve," Miliband said.
Miliband said that when he visited Lebanon in 2013, the refugees "were still saying they could see a time when they could go back to Syria. Now it's much more depressing, frankly, for them."
"There is little light at the end of this tunnel," Miliband said.