In a move that puts the heated U.S. debate over taking in Syrian refugees in perspective, French President Francois Hollande declared on Wednesday that his country would accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over next two years. He announced this at a gathering of mayors from French cities, where he received a standing ovation.
Hollande said that "30,000 refugees will be welcomed over the next two years. Our country has the duty to respect this commitment." He indicated that resettled refugees would undergo rigorous security checks, according to ABC News. He said there would be a 50 million euro investment fund used to support housing for refugees.
Hollande observed that "some people say the tragic events of the last few days have sown doubts in their minds," referring to the cloud of suspicion that has fallen on the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who arrived at Europe's borders this year. Despite speculation, not one of the Paris attackers has so far been identified as a Syrian national.
Hollande said it was France's "humanitarian duty" to honor its commitments to refugees, even in the wake of the chilling terror attacks on Friday, claimed by the Islamic State, which killed at least 129 people.
"We have to reinforce our borders while remaining true to our values," the French president said.
The message flies in the face of recent statements by American Republican presidential hopefuls and governors, who have all cited the security concerns surrounding the terror attacks as reasons to halt resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. Some have proposed only allowing in Christian refugees, at the expense of Muslim ones.
The U.S. State Department has said it has no intention of halting its efforts to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. Speaking on the sidelines of a summit in Manila, President Obama decried the hostility to refugees back home.
The Islamic State "seeks to exploit the idea that there’s war between Islam and the West," Obama said, "and when you start seeing individuals in position of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the [Islamic State] narrative."
Hollande, for his part, has rejected the rhetoric of a "clash of civilizations," and he spoke of French courage on Wednesday.
"Life should resume fully," Hollande said. "What would France be without its museums, without its terraces, its concerts, its sports competitions? France should remain as it is. Our duty is to carry on our lives."
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