Geneva: The UN Refugee Agency on Tuesday warned that the anti-refugee rhetoric during the US presidential campaign is putting Syrian resettlement programmes at risk, saying it would be a "shame" if it was halted at a time when the world should help the victims of terrorism and violence.
"We have a very strong resettlement programme into the US and it includes Syrian refugees. We are concerned that the rhetoric that is being used in the (US) election campaign is putting an incredibly important resettlement programme at risk that is meant for the most vulnerable people," said Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump today called for "a total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the US following the California massacre that left 14 people dead, the most divisive remarks yet during the US presidential campaign drawing swift condemnation including from his rivals.
Apart from that, governors in 30 states across the US, including Illinois, Florida, Maryland and Massachusetts, in November this year, asked for a halt to the Syrian resettlement programme citing security concerns.
"It is the most stringent screening process on earth," Fleming said, referring to the refugee screening process which takes up to two years.
The UNHCR chooses the most vulnerable of the refugees victims of torture, single women, children with medical problems?and refers them to the resettlement countries. The resettlement country then starts a screening process.
US President Barack Obama has committed to admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees over one year after criticism that America is not doing enough in the refugee crisis.
"It takes two years to go through all of the screening steps with the different agencies in the US system before being admitted to the US. It would be a shame if this were halted at a time when we actually need the world to step up and to help the victims of terrorism and the violence that is driving so many people from their homes," the official said.