Obama: Blocking Syrian refugees goes against US values

US president says attempts to reject refugees ‘offensive and contrary to American values’ as APEC meeting kicks off.

Syrian refugees
Even lawmakers from Obama's Democratic Party called for close vetting of refugees from Syria in case they are linked to ISIL [Muhammed Muheisen/AP]

Attempts to block the entry of Syrian refugees into United States are “offensive and contrary to American values”, US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday. 

Some lawmakers have threatened to suspend the Obama administration’s efforts to allow 10,000 more Syrian refugees into the country as anti-refugee rhetoric escalates from dozens of US governors and Republican presidential hopefuls in the wake of Friday’s attacks on Paris.


Speaking on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the Philippine capital, Manila, the US president accused politicians at home of trying to score political points over the issue.

“We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks,” Obama said.

Calls are growing for close vetting of refugees from Syria in case they are linked to groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which claimed responsibility for the Paris attack that killed 129 people.

APEC under way

Security forces remained on full alert in Manila as the APEC leaders’ meeting kicked off on Wednesday.

Obama told reporters an informal conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Turkey covered the possibility of deeper coordination with Russia in the military campaign against ISIL. The discussion marked a slight shift in approach after weeks of condemning Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria as chiefly aimed at propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“If, in fact, he shifts his focus and the focus of his military to what is the principal threat, which is ISIL, then that is something that we very much want to see,” Obama said. “And we will be in discussions with Moscow and Mr Putin to see if that will continue.”

Regional tensions over the South China Sea and security concerns after the attack on Paris could eclipse efforts by Pacific-Rim leaders this week to boost trade and growth across a region of about three billion people.

Philippine officials have said there has been no intelligence suggesting a major threat to the Manila summit, which will be attended by leaders and representatives from the APEC’s 21 member nations.

About 30,000 soldiers and police have been deployed in the Philippine capital to protect the leaders.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters