Saturday, November 14, 2015

How The United States Screens Syrian Refugees

There’s a robust security process in place, but there are also legitimate concerns about vetting Syrian refugees.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Many European countries will accept a refugee application based simply on a case file. The U.S. system works much differently.

Fewer than 2,000 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States since the start of the Syrian civil war. Though the Obama administration has the United States will accept 10,000 refugees in 2016, the complexity of the process takes on average 18 to 24 months.

Many of those refugees that would be approved in 2016 are already going through the security-screening process and upon completion will enter the U.S. next year, according to a senior State Department official.

Some have raised concerns this fall that even the level of security that the United States applies to the process is not sufficient enough to actually keep extremists from entering the country.

Secretary John Kerry told Congress earlier this year that the plan was to engage in "super vetting, I mean an extraordinarily level of vetting." He added that if the FBI wasn't satisfied, he was "quite confident that people aren't going to be allowed in."

  • Multiple high-level security checks
  • Biometric screening
  • A mandatory interview with the Department of Homeland Security
  • A medical screening
  • A cultural orientation program (which consists of videos on housing, employment, education, and hygiene, among other topics)

Several of the checks only remain current for a certain period of time, but to qualify for entry into the United States, a potential refugee must have approved status for each step at the same time.

For instance, the medical screening is valid for only six months, and most security checks expire after 15 months.

U.S. officials have emphasized a specific concern about accepting refugees from Syria: The lack of on-the-ground intelligence in Syria that could be used in the vetting process.

U.S. officials have emphasized a specific concern about accepting refugees from Syria: The lack of on-the-ground intelligence in Syria that could be used in the vetting process.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images


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