Obama says US will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees. Is that a lot?

GlobalPost
Syrian migrants wait to board a ferry to Greece on Aug. 23, 2015.

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NEED TO KNOW:

The Obama administration is feeling pretty good about itself right now. Enough Senate Democrats managed to come together to block a possible Republican resolution that would have rejected the deal the United States, together with several other countries, managed to strike with Iran.

As a result, the deal will go ahead without any more debate or votes. It's done. Iran will curb its nuclear program. And the United States and others will lift sanctions. Iran will rejoin the global community. It's a major victory for the White House. It might even be good for the world. Riding high, the Obama administration followed its victory with another announcement: The United States will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees.

Does that seem like a lot to you? Millions of Syrians have been fleeing their country over the past four years. In that time, the United States (a country of 300 million) has taken in fewer than two thousand. Then a tragic picture is taken of a young Syrian boy who drowned during his escape to Europe. A debate erupts. Germany leads the way by reforming its refugee policies and taking in many more of them. The world (most of it, at least) celebrates German Chancellor Angel Merkel for her leadership.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott surely saw how good this had been for Merkel. He soon followed her lead, announcing that Australia would take in 12,000 Syrian refugees (which is nothing compared to totals in Germany, or in Turkey or Lebanon or Jordan, for that matter). It must have been a hard decision for a man who supports a policy of towing boats of migrants who arrive in Australian waters back out to sea.

Now the United States is jumping on the bandwagon. The United States has always taken in many refugees. You may recall the country was actually founded by persecuted refugees. But after 9/11, 14 years ago today, resettling in the United States became a lot more difficult — often close to impossible if you were Muslim or from certain Middle East countries.

So it's nice that Obama is going to let in 10,000 Syrians. But to put that in perspective, we have GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Richard Hall, who is based in Beirut: “There is a small village in the mountains of Lebanon that is hosting more Syrian refugees than all 50 US states combined.” He went there and talked to the villagers. You can read his story here.

WANT TO KNOW:

Gaza is the most densely populated strip of land on Earth. And as a result of an Israeli blockade on Gaza, there is little to buy and nowhere to go for all the people who are living in it. For many Gazans, building a home — a space of their own — is an essential way to survive the chaos.

In the summer of 2014, however, more than 10,000 of those homes were annihilated by Israeli rockets. Many more homes were damaged. More than 2,100 Palestinians died that summer, and more than 100,000 were left homeless. “Most Gazans have been unable to rebuild their houses, or even begin to clear the millions of tons of rubble the war left behind,” writes GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Laura Dean.

In October last year, the international community pledged billions to recontruct Gaza. But words are not actions. Only a fraction of that aid has arrived, meaning most of those who lost their homes have not been able to rebuild. Officials are worried that the longer Palestinians are forced to wait, the more likely it is that conflict will again break out. Such poverty and despair, they say, makes fertile ground for recruiting extremists. More extremists means more war with Israel.

STRANGE BUT TRUE:

Canada's going to turn 150 years old in 2017. (That's the political identity of Canada, not the landmass, which is probably closer to several billion years old give or take.) Anyway, to celebrate this anniversary, the country is releasing some special new coins. Even more special? They will be designed, submitted and voted on by Canadian citizens.

There are now finalists and you can check them all out here. Some are what you'd expect: a dove carrying a maple leaf in its beak, for instance. And then there's one that at first glance seems unremarkable, but at second glance is something much more. It's called “The Canadian Family,” and it looks like a bunch of adults and kids holding hands. But the description reveals: “With this design, I want to represent Canadian values: a mother, a father and their child; two mothers and their child; two fathers and their child, the acceptance and equality with respect to Canadian laws and values for the whole world.”

Pretty soon Canada could have a coin that everyone is carrying around in their pockets that celebrates marriage equality. For Canada, that happened 10 years ago. So a commemorative coin may not be as controversial there as in, say, the United States, which just got around to legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide a couple months ago.