The first Syrian refugee family aided by a renewed effort to aid victims of the country’s civil war arrived in Kansas City on Wednesday night.
Ahmad al-Abboud, his wife and their five children are here, safe and excited for new opportunities, said Judy McGonigle Akers, the executive vice president of Della Lamb Community Services, which is helping resettle the family.
“The father and mother are grateful to be here,” McGonigle Akers said. “The father wants freedom, a safe place for his family, access to a good job and education — all the things anyone wants.”
The al-Abboud family got the chance to come to Missouri as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to aid in bringing 10,000 Syrians to the U.S. by Sept. 30.
Some 9 million Syrians have fled the country since civil war broke out in 2011. Neighboring nations and southern European nations in particular have been overwhelmed by the flow of families escaping the country.
Missouri, unlike Kansas and some other states, has not attempted to bar Syrian refugees from being resettled in the state. Some terrorist attacks in the world have been completed by Syrian nationals, prompting Gov. Sam Brownback to sign an executive order last fall saying Kansas would not participate in bringing in refugees.
Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri called on federal agencies to heighten their security measures to see that Americans are protected but did not move to block refugees. Obama has supported continued resettlement, with safeguards, saying the refugees are the first victims of extremist forces in Syria.
Syrian refugees entering the U.S. through resettlement processes go through intense and time-consuming background checks that can take two or more years, McGonigle Akers said. In the surge effort, the United Nations Refugee Agency is trying to reduce the time to three months, prioritizing help to the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied minors and victims of torture and gender-based violence.
The al-Abboud family had fled Syria to Jordan. As part of the U.S. effort to bring in more refugees, a resettlement surge center opened in Amman, Jordan, in February.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.