Few Syrians would choose to leave homeland for North America: poll

By Sebastien Malo NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A new poll shows that few Syrians want to leave their country for North America, where conservative U.S. presidential candidates have been calling for restrictions on refugees from the war-torn nation. Of Syrians surveyed in their homeland who said they wanted to move, a mere 6 percent chose the United States and Canada as their desired location, according to the poll by Gallup, a global polling and research firm based in Washington, D.C. Europe was the most popular destination, chosen by 39 percent, followed by the Middle East and North Africa, with 35 percent, it said. The poll interviewed 1,002 adults face-to-face in Syria in January, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. North America was the least popular region globally. Of those choosing the region, fewer than half selected the United States. "There is nothing in the data that we found that would imply that anyone is particularly trying to come to the U.S.," said Mohamed Younis, a senior analyst at Gallup. In the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris by Islamist State militants that killed 130 people, a number of presidential candidates from the U.S. Republican Party have warned against welcoming Syrian refugees into the country. They have warned that Islamist militants might try to enter the United States under the guise of being refugees. Last month, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said when Syrian refugees "start pouring into this country, we don't know if they're ISIS, we don't know if it's a Trojan horse." Republican Chris Christie has said he does not trust the administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, to vet refugees, while Republican Ben Carson said at a campaign event that Syrian refugees, whom he compared to "rabid dogs," would endanger Americans. The Obama administration has said it will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States over the next year. A Gallup poll from late November showed 60 percent of Americans opposed the plan. Canada has said it will accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February. The Gallup poll, released on Monday, found 46 percent of Syrians overall would leave Syria if they could. Residents in certain sections of Syria were not polled due to security, representing about one-third of the population. Syria’s war, which erupted in 2011, has killed some 250,000 people and created more than four million refugees in a country of about 23 million people. (Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)