The Syrian Refugee Crisis

posted Apr 7, 2016, 8:02 PM by Amelia Fannin
Grace Newton GDG Rusty Egmont
Westy Egmont, professor at the Boston College School of Social Work, spoke about the Syrian Refugee crisis at the April 3rd Grace Discussion Group. Westy focuses on global issues, and is the director of the BC School of Social Work Immigrant Integration Lab. Through research and training, the lab seeks to increase integration of newcomers, social cohesion and to identify barriers to integration. Their goal is to build human capital and mutual acceptance by immigrants and the receiving community.  
He said that the plight of Syrian refugees was the biggest human crisis since WW II. Four million people have left Syria fleeing from their government since the civil war in Syria started in 2011. This is the equivalent of 60 million Americans fleeing our country into Canada or Mexico.  
syrian refugees

In 1951, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees formed to cope with the crisis following WW II. Article 13 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that all people have the right to seek refuge but does not state that other nations have to accept them. In addition most of the Persian Gulf states did not sign the declaration. Saudi Arabia abuts Syria, but they have accepted very few refugees. Muslims have been at the forefront of helping refugees. Several years ago Turkey prepared to take in 200,000 people - now two million refugees are there. Lebanon also has been welcoming and now has 600,000 Syrian refugees  Both of these countries are overwhelmed with the large numbers coming from Syria.
Angela Merkel of Germany opened their borders, and one million refugees entered. With a growing economy and an aging population, Germany needed more workers. With the huge numbers entering, however, there has now been push back to stop immigration from Syria. Westy felt that the refugees who had entered would be integrated into German society but it would take about three years. France has accepted 20,000 refugees, and Sweden 200,000. Most other European countries are not accepting them.
There are two ways for people to escape from Syria: the land crossing into the Balkans and the water crossing to Greece.  The Balkan countries have weak economies and are fearful that if refugees enter their countries, they will not be allowed into Europe and the Balkan nations will be responsible for them.  One million Syrian refugees have entered Greece since last year.  Most refugees fleeing Syria are middle class people who had homes and jobs.  They pay about $10,000 to leave Syria and enter Turkey, and this often exhausts their resources.  
On April 4, Greece will start returning recent refugees to Turkey. For every refugee returned, a European Union nation will accept a refugee. The EU signed the deal with Turkey in an effort to alleviate the crisis, but many human rights groups have criticized it.
We discussed how we can help the refugees. The political entities are not reliable to help. Many nations are resistant or hostile to accepting them and the UN High Commission on Refugees does not have the infrastructure or funding to provide enough help. Religious entities are providing the most assistance to displaced Syrians. Westy felt that donations to Church World Service (CWS), the Jesuit Refugee Services or Catholic Relief Services would be the best way for our parish to help. Find more information about CWS's work for Syrian refugees here.