The first Syrian family under the ‘surge operation’ resettlement program arrived in Kansas City, Missouri on April 6.
The family of seven, originally from Homs, Syria, arrived to America from Jordan through a sped-up “surge operation” for refugees.
Ahmad al-Abboud, 45, is being resettled with his wife and five children after escaping from the civil war in Syria. He said he is thankful to Jordan, where the family has lived in for three years, and said he is ready to start a new life in the United States.
“I’m happy. America is the country of freedom and democracy, there are jobs opportunities, there is good education, and we are looking forward to having a good life over there,” he said before getting on the plane to Kansas City.
The family lived in Mafraq, north of Amman. The Syrian father was unable to find a job and the family was getting by on food coupons.
To start anew, Al-Abboud said he wanted to learn English and find a job to help his family.
One-thousand refugees from Syria have moved to the United States from Jordan since October. The Obama administration plans to resettle 10,000 more by Sept. 30.
To meet the number, a resettlement center was opened in Amman in February, where about 600 people are interviewed daily.
U.S. Ambassador Alice Wells, who was at the airport with the al-Abboud family before leaving for Kansas said the temporary processing center will be open until April 28.
While the goal of 10,000 is intended for Syrian refugees in different countries, most of them will be resettled from Jordan, according to the regional refugee coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Gina Kassem.
About 635,000 of the more than 4.7 million Syrians who have registered with the U.N. refugee agency after fleeing the war relocated to Jordan. The total number of Syrians in Jordan is more than 1.2 million, counting those who arrived there before the war began in 2011.
Countries Lebanon and Turkey also have a large number of Syrians who have moved there, according to UNHCR.
The resettlement process involving interviews and background checks by various federal agencies usually takes 18 to 24 months. Kassem said the surge operation will reduce it to three months.
She said the U.N. Refugee Agency focuses on the most vulnerable cases for resettlements, like high-risk groups such as unaccompanied minors and victims of torture and gender-based violence. The agency then submits the cases to the United States to review.
“We do not have exclusions or look for families with certain educational background, language skills or other socio-economic factors, and we do not cut family sizes,” said Kassem.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.