Obama: World must do more to stem 'epic' refugee crisis

Obama: World must do more to stem 'epic' refugee crisis

President Obama on Tuesday urged world leaders to do more to help refugees, calling it “a crisis of epic proportions.”

During a summit on refugees at the United Nations, Obama thanked dozens of governments and business for making new pledges to relieve the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. 

But he insisted “it’s still not enough … for a crisis of this magnitude.”


“This crisis is one of the most urgent tests of our time; [it tests] our capacity for collective action,” the president said.

Obama mentioned that more than 50 U.S. businesses have pledged more than $650 million to help refugees get an education and find jobs.

He also thanked countries participating in the summit for increasing their contributions to humanitarian assistance efforts by $4.5 billion.

The president’s latest push on refugees is a centerpiece of his final appearance at the U.N. General Assembly.

He’s faced criticism for not doing enough to address the crisis throughout his presidency, especially with regard to the conflict in Syria, the biggest source of refugees.

But the effort has been met with resistance at home from Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE, who cites fears over terrorism in opposing refugee resettlement. 

Those concerns spiked after last weekend’s terror plots in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota. 

Without naming Trump, Obama rejected his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., made in response to last year’s terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

“If we were to turn refugees away simply because of their background or religion or, for example, because they are Muslim, then we would be reinforcing terrorist propaganda that nations such as my own are opposed to Islam,” Obama said.

The president evoked the memory of countries, including the U.S., turning away Jews fleeing Europe during the Holocaust. 

“Just as failure to act in the past … is a stain on our collective conscience, I believe history will judge us harshly if we do not rise to this moment,” he said.

More than 21 million people worldwide have fled their homes and crossed international borders, according to the United Nations. 

The Obama administration announced last week that the U.S. would resettle 110,000 refugees from around the world, a 30 percent increase from this year. The U.S took in 10,000 refugees from Syria alone this year.

The president stressed that people seeking refuge in the U.S. “are subject to more vigorous screening than the average tourist.”

“I believe refugees can make us stronger,” he said.