Refugee screening process explained

In the days since the Paris attacks many questions have arisen surrounding the safety of bringing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

Here in Rhode Island leaders who work with refugees want to assure the public that the process to bring these people into the country is very strict.

"They have to go through many layers of processing the security measures are very high,” said Baha Sadr the Director of Refugee Resettlement and Case Management at the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island. That’s an organization that works to bring in roughly 200 refugees to the state each year. "They have to go through many layers of processing the security measures are very high.”

The process which can be simplified into roughly 13 steps, begins by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees determining that a person meets the criteria to qualify as a refugee. From there, refugees must be referred to the U.S. Government where they go through what can be years of background checks and in depth interviews with the Department of Homeland Security.

"The process could take anywhere from a year and a half to four years to even more,” said Sadr.

The Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island has been helping refugees since the mid-70’s. The organization’s executive director says these people are vulnerable and in need of help. She calls the recent push not to allow Syrian refugees into Rhode Island and the country heartbreaking.

"It hurts my heart frankly,” said Kathy Cloutier. "When we think about actually less than one percent of refugees are resettled that’s how stringent that process is,” said Cloutier.

Cloutier asks that people not let ISIS prevent the country from continuing to help suffering refugees.

"Be angry with terrorists but refugees are not terrorists,” said Cloutier.

© WLNE-TV 2015