President Barack Obama greeted his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, Thursday at the White House during an official state visit, welcoming the young, liberal-leaning northern leader who is in many ways similar to the U.S. president. After agreeing on environmental cooperation, one key issue remained as a differentiating point between the two progressive leaders: The ongoing refugee crisis and the acceptance and resettlement of Syrians.
Since the civil war began in Syria nearly five years ago, over 250,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced. In the past several months since late 2015, Trudeau has warmly welcomed 26,166 Syrian refugees arriving to Canada, and an additional 2,382 refugees have been approved to travel to Canada and resettle in 260 communities across the country, according to government statistics.
The U.S., however, has managed to resettle only 955 Syrian refugees, with 114 resettled during February, according to the advocacy group Human Rights First. Obama vowed to take in 10,000 refugees during the 2016 fiscal year, which began in October 2015.
While Canada has seemingly been eager to take in a large number of refugees over the course of four months, the same is apparently not true for the U.S., where anti-immigration rhetoric from Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump includes a proposed ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. Trump used the December shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 dead as an oppurtunity to use anti-Muslim language describing the shooters as "radicalized."
American government officials have said the processing time for refugee applications can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months, with the acceptance rate estimated at 50 percent. The United Nations has submitted more than 26,000 Syrian refugee applications for consideration to the U.S.
"So the reason for [the processing time] is that our national security interests and the safety of the American public is paramount," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest during a briefing at the end of February. "At the same time, it also is a testament to the generosity of the American people. Through that U.N. program, the United States takes in [historically] more resettled refugees than every other country of the world combined."
The EU received more than 1.2 million asylum claims in 2015. More than 1 million refugees entered Germany in 2015 with more than 476,000 asylum claims. Berlin has pledged resettlement for more than 41,000 Syrian refugees, according to figures from the United Nations, with those figures likely to increase with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open arms policy remaining unshaken.
While Germany has seen some of Europe's highest numbers, Turkey is currently hosting over 2 million Syrian refugees. Closer to American and Canadian numbers, the U.K. has vowed to resettle 20,000 refugees.