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First Syrian family from ‘surge’ resettlement program arrives in U.S.

The first Syrian family to qualify for resettlement in the U.S. through a new “surge resettlement” program arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, late Wednesday night, according to the Associated Press.

Ahmad al-Abboud, 45, will settle in Kansas City with his wife and five children. They came to Jordan after leaving their home in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, which has been devastated by war as the Syrian revolution in 2011 gave way to a multi-sided armed conflict.

The program is a part of President Barack Obama’s pledge to bring 10,000 Syrians to the U.S. by Sept. 30, a goal that is already underway with the arrival of approximately 1,000 Syrian refugees from Jordan in the U.S. since October.

At a “surge resettlement” center that opened in Amman, Jordan, in February, resettlement officials are interviewing 600 people every day to speed the process of determining who qualifies for resettlement in the U.S. Canada, which has welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees, also opened a resettlement processing center in Amman in November.

Many of the refugees that will benefit from the program will come from Jordan, according to Gina Kassem, regional refugee coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Amman. More than 633,000 Syrians have migrated there so far, according to numbers from last November.

Neighboring Lebanon has seen its population swell by 1.1 million refugees, who now number approximately 20 percent of the country’s residents. In total, more than 4.8 million Syrians have registered with the UNHCR in the past several years.

The U.S. has so far taken in a very small percentage of refugees from the conflict. All refugees who resettle in the U.S. will undergo a complex, sometimes years-long process of interviews and background checks, including by the State Department, National Counterterrorism Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security and Department of State.

That process can take 18 to 24 months or longer, though with the establishment of the surge resettlement center, officials are making an effort to limit the wait time to three months, Kassem said.

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