"The vast majority of (Syrian) refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work."

Carly Fiorina on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 in a campaign stop in Concord, N.H.

Fiorina says 'vast majority' of Syrian refugees are able bodied young men

Carly Fiorina, in trying to position herself as "most qualified leader in foreign policy" among the Republican candidates for president, reiterated her September stand against admitting Syrian refugees to come to the United States.

At a meeting with the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women in Concord, N.H., on Nov. 17 -- following the terrorist attacks in Paris -- Fiorina questioned the demographics of those fleeing.

The photos of mothers and their children provoke sympathy, she said, but they don’t show "the truth."

"The vast majority of these refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work," she said at the event, which was covered by the Concord Monitor.

In Concord, she didn’t specifically say Syrian refugees, but the surrounding discussion was specific to Syria. A day later, she repeated the claim on talk radio during an interview with host Mike Gallagher and specified that "the vast majority of refugees leaving Syria are able-bodied young men."

That sounded like a job for PolitiFact.

United Nations data

Previously, PolitiFact has examined claims about Syrian refugees. In October, Donald Trump said "there aren't that many women; there aren't that many children" among Syrian refugees. We ranked that statement False.

The United Nations keeps track of more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees, with an online database that includes specific demographic data.

Let’s start by leaving out the other qualifiers — young and able-bodied — and look at whether the "vast majority" of refugees are men. We need not split hairs on what constitutes a "vast majority" here, since the gender breakdown is pretty evenly split; in hard numbers, the majority of refugees is actually female.

Further, to look at only the male refugees – which amount to 49.7 percent of the total – less than half of that population is age 18 or older. Men ages 18 to 59 comprise about 22 percent of all Syrian refugees.

Contrary to Fiorina’s statement, most refugees overall are children age 17 or younger.


Geoffrey Mock, a Syrian country specialist for Amnesty International USA, explained the situation of Syrian refugees to PolitiFact for the similar fact-check of Trump.

He said the sort of refugees Fiorina was talking about – young, able-bodied men – would be given a low priority for settling in the United States. President Obama recommended in September that the country take at least 10,000 refugees in the next fiscal year.

The United Nations recommended in April that the U.S. and other industrialized countries shelter 130,000 Syrian refugees over the following two years.

"The priorities go to torture survivors, people with serious medical conditions, children and teens on their own, and women and children at risk," Mock told PolitiFact.

Selected refugees undergo screening by state agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. The process can take years.

Our ruling

Fiorina said the "vast majority of (Syrian) refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work."

She repeated the essence of a claim that wasn’t accurate a month earlier and isn’t accurate today. A slight majority of Syrian refugees are female, and men age 18 to 59 comprise about 22 percent of all Syrian refugees.

We rate Fiorina’s claim False.