American states reject Syrian refugees

11:29 am on 17 November 2015

Syrian refugees are no longer welcome in more than a dozen American states due to security fears after the Paris attacks.

A refugee carries her child after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border near Gevgelija.

A refugee carries her child after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border near Gevgelija. Photo: AFP

Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan, said he was suspending the acceptance of new arrivals until after a review.

Alabama, Texas and several other states issued similar statements but a State Department spokesman said the legality of this action was still unclear.

President Barack Obama has urged the United States to "step up and do its part" to help those fleeing the civil war.

"Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values," he said.

"Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both."

The governors' decisions come in the wake of the attacks in Paris which killed 129 people on Friday evening.

Seven of the perpetrators died in the attacks, and one of them is thought to have been a Syrian who entered Europe via Greece with migrants.

Millions of Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries and to Europe, and the US has promised to take about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months.

States saying no to refugees are:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

While the state of Alabama has not accepted any Syrian refugees so far, the southern state's governor has said that he "will not place Alabamians at even the slightest possible risk of an attack on our people".

In Michigan, where it has been reported that 200 Syrians have been resettled in the past year, Governor Snyder said he would suspend the acceptance of new refugees until the US Department of Homeland Security "completes a full review of security clearances and procedures".

The decision to suspend the acceptance of refugees has drawn the ire of some working to resettle them.

"It's vital to keep in mind those who are refugees are fleeing persecution," said Michael Mitchell, from the the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service which works to resettle refugees in the US.

But several Republican presidential candidates said it would be wrong to accept any more. Business mogul Donald Trump described it as "insane".

The three top Democratic candidates have said they want the US to take more than 10,000 Syrian refugees but only after extensive vetting.

On Monday it was reported that a new video released by the so-called Islamic State celebrates the attacks and threatens Washington, DC.

- BBC

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs