If not before the last few months, there is no doubt you will have heard of the Syrian refugee crisis by now. Roughly the size of Washington state, Syria is a country in the Middle East deep in the throes of a violent war. Antonio Guterres of the UNHCR commented that the situation in Syria "has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them.” The consequences of the ever escalating and convoluted war, are that half of Syria’s entire population of 22 million have been forced out of their communities, 4 million of which are refugees. While most have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, Europe has absorbed an astonishing amount. The US has accepted 1,500 in the last 2 years, with plans from the Obama administration to accept 10,000 more in the next year.
Number of people requesting asylum per country in April - November of 2015*:
Number of refugees per country in April - November of 2015*:
Turkey: 1.9 million
Iraq : 250,000
Lebanon: 1.1 million
With the enormity of the problem, the requirements for qualifying for refugee status are the subject of worldwide debate. The process is incredibly slow and the requirements stringent. One must show that they are unwilling to return to their home country because they have been or will be persecuted there, and the reason they have been (or will be) persecuted must be connected to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
The US screening process is much stricter than elsewhere, especially for those with any connection to countries posing a threat to the US. After being referred for refugee status, individuals must undergo a lengthy round of interviews, background and identity checks, and biometric screenings. Only the most vulnerable individuals are assigned for resettlement. The Department of Defense and the FBI vet the information to internal and shared databases. The average process takes 18-24 months, an extremely long time for people fleeing war and living in squalid refugee camps.
Solomon, of our talented production staff, and a refugee from Ethiopia, recounts his immigration story and thoughts on the current Syrian refugee crisis.
While the numbers tell a painful and controversial story, it is important to remember that each refugee is a person with his own personal experience, history, and hopes for the future. And after fleeing war and losing homes, families and livelihoods, they must rebuild a life and community in a foreign culture, without the prospect of ever being able to return home. What can we do as individuals to welcome these brave newcomers to our communities without further projecting the xenophobic national consciousness already so profoundly imposed upon them throughout the resettlement process? How can we draw on our own humanity to relate to the experiences and perspectives of others?
At Knotty Tie Co., we believe in the power of individuals gathering to affect positive change on our communities and the world. Let’s join together in compassion. Let’s get creative in how we can help. Let’s go out of our way to make sure every single refugee entering America feel welcome and cared for.
*(These numbers reflect only the highest statistics. There are many other countries receiving requests for asylum and hosting Syrian refugees)
CNN - “More than half the nation’s governors say Syrian refugees not welcome”
U.S. News - “Refugees: Economic Boon or Burden?
Niskan Center - “Six Reasons to Welcome Syrian Refugees after Paris”
U.S. Department of State - “U.S. Refugee Admissions Program”
National Geographic - “Half of Syrians Displaced: 5 Takeaways From New UN Report”
CNN - “Syrian Refugees: Which countries welcome them, which ones don’t”
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