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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Syrian Refugees deserve political and humanitarian consideration from U.S.

The recent events in Aleppo have garnered international news and media attention concerning the emergency in Syria, and many people are being made aware of the refugee crisis for the first time. 

According to the UN News Center, an estimated 35,000 civilians struggled to evacuate from Eastern Aleppo in the midst of a breakdown in evacuation efforts and the collapse of a pre-negotiated ceasefire. 

However, this conflict is not new and war in Syria has been ongoing for over five years— long enough to produce almost five million registered refugees fleeing violence, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

According to Amnesty International, the majority of Syrian refugees are being hosted by just five countries— Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, while a paltry 4.7 percent of these refugees have been pledged international resettlement. 

While President Obama  increased numbers in the United States pledge to resettle refugees, his commitment to the issue was met with strong opposition from lawmakers, state governors and the American public. 

The opposition toward Syrian refugees is often born of entrenched habits of mind, media driven fear, and misinformation. Syrian refugees are frequently seen as having relations with terrorist organizations such as ISIS, but instead, refugees are fleeing the violence perpetuated by these extremist groups. 

They have suffered human rights abuses so severe they left behind community, family and business in order to seek something we all deserve— safety.  

While legitimate refugees are victims of the Syrian conflict, it is still of utmost importance to protect U.S. national security and ensure that all persons admitted to the U.S’s resettlement process do not pose a security threat. 

For this reason, refugees are the most heavily vetted category of people admitted to the United States, undergoing a seven step admissions process that can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months, according to the U.S. Department of State. 

Furthermore, Syrian refugees undergo additional security checks implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, known as the Syrian Review, to ensure that all information for Syrian cases has been synthesized and reviewed correctly.

It is important to understand that refugees cannot request to be resettled in any specific country. Instead, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees reviews refugee cases and then, based on the profile of the applicant, suggests a refugee-hosting country for the applicant. 

The strength of the United States vetting process for refugees cannot be denied, and, when it is examined and understood, it is clear to see that it provides a secure route to resettlement for those fleeing war torn conflict zones. 

Despite the capability of the United States resettlement process, many citizens and government officials, such as Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, proclaim that leaving the displaced people of Syria in Middle Eastern refugee camps for the duration of the conflict is in the best interest of both the American and the Syrian people, according to a 2015 Fox Business interview with Bryant. This proposition is dangerous because it not only places the refugees of Syria in jeopardy, but it also threatens U.S. security. 

According to the UNHCR, Za’atari Camp in Jordan, the largest Syrian refugee camp, is home to 79,597 refugees. Due to the magnitude and duration of the conflict in Syria, the camp has developed into a permanent community, despite Za’atari lacking the resources needed for a long term settlement. 

The people living in the camp are resilient and hardworking, and they have developed an economy and a way of life within the camp. However, their growing society is confined by the walls of the camp and the sounds of shelling and bombing on the other side of the Jordanian-Syrian border.

It is unrealistic to assume that camps like Za’atari can offer long term solutions to the crisis. People have an innate need to establish communities and societies, and there is a limit to the prosperity that can be achieved within a temporary camp establishment. 

Failing to alleviate the burden of top refugee-hosting countries such as Lebanon, where the Human Rights Watch finds that “almost one in four people today is a refugee,” will only undermine U.S. national security by allowing the instability of the region to further grow under the pressure of rampantly increasing populations with a lack of resources. 

Furthermore, the negative rhetoric toward refugees and the increasing movements to shut the door on Syrians is in opposition to American values and does not support our international allies. 

The most concerning aspect of the violence in Syria and the resulting long term population of refugee camps is the impact it has on the children of Syria. A 2014 UNICEF report found that 48.4 percent of school aged children in the Za’atari camp alone are not receiving formal education. 

The problem does not end with refugee camps—even the Syrian refugee children who have settled into cities and communities outside of camps struggle with discrimination, overpopulation of schools, and other barriers to education.  

World Vision 2016 states that refugee children stand at a higher risk for child labor, sexual abuse, child marriage, malnourishment, and recruitment by extremist organizations. 

The high percentages of children not enrolled in formal education only magnifies these impacts of war, and a lack of education mixed with the traumatizing effects of violence only stands to foster increases in terrorism and instability. 

The conflict in Syria has already claimed thousands of innocent lives, and it is reprehensible that is has taken crimes against humanity in Aleppo to gain the American people’s attention. 

There is not a quick solution to the conflict in Syria, but if we continue to turn our backs on the largest migration crisis since World War II, we will only become accomplices in these crimes. 

The varying political opinions concerning refugee resettlement and immigration must be placed aside in order to recognize not only the human component at the genesis of the refugee crisis, but also the implication it has for the future stability of the Middle East, which affects the future security of the United States. 

I encourage us all to find ways to become advocates and agents for the safety and education of the children of Syria— the future leaders and peacemakers for the region.  

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Syrian Refugees deserve political and humanitarian consideration from U.S.