By Melanie Nezer
Vice President of Policy & Advocacy
HIAS, Member Of The Multi-Faith Alliance For Syrian Refugees In Jordan
We must help.
U.S. officials have promised that the United States will do everything in its power to meet the needs of displaced Syrians, who are facing the worst refugee crisis in the world in decades. The conflict in Syria has forced more than 2.5 million people from their homes; over half are children, who are already being referred to as Syria's "lost generation.
" As the world's most powerful nation, and the one with the most robust history of immigration, we have a basic responsibility to protect particularly vulnerable refugees, including women, who are caring for their families alone, and refugees with critical health problems that cannot be treated where they are.
Action is urgent, and it is imperative.
As the conflict worsens, refugees flee the chaos and violence to seek safety in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. Today, more than one in five people currently living in Lebanon is a refugee.
Although most Syrians would like to return home, it is unlikely they will be able to do so anytime soon, if ever. Some will temporarily integrate into Lebanon, Jordan and other host countries, but for many, resettlement to a third country is the only way to rebuild their lives in safety.
The difficult reality of daily life for refugees who have fled persecution and widespread violence was highlighted in recent reports that a stunningly low number of Syrians - just 46 - were resettled in the United States last year, all of whom applied before the current conflict.
The field team in Jordan for HIAS, the refugee assistance organization I work with, recently met refugees who were arrested, detained and tortured by the Syrian government. Some fled after their homes were raided or before their homes were blown up. Some have family members who returned home from Jordan and were picked up at checkpoints and remain in detention today.
But many have medical issues that cannot be addressed in Jordan. One refugee we interviewed, Yousef (not his real name), fled Homs, Syria, after his home was twice raided by government soldiers who beat him and falsely accused him of armed resistance.
His family hid in different relatives' homes until they were able to flee to Jordan. Yousef's 4-year-old son has a serious heart condition and had open-heart surgery before the war. Lacking a work permit, Yousef can't work in Jordan and can't pay for the follow-up care his son needs. Yousef's son could die without treatment that he cannot afford in Jordan.
The number of refugees who are allowed to resettle in the United States is set annually by the President. For the past two years, it has been 70,000.
Twenty years ago, the United States was welcoming twice that number. We have always been the world's leader in refugee resettlement, taking the majority of the world's resettled refugees.
The sheer magnitude of this crisis, with no end in sight for the conflict, and the massive impact on the host countries struggling to meet the needs of these refugees in an already unstable region, underlines how woefully insufficient our current quotas are.
The United States should commit to resettling at least half of the refugees identified by the UN Refugee Agency as needing resettlement - or at least 15,000 each year over the next five years. This should be in addition to the 70,000 refugees the U.S. has committed to resettle who are survivors of conflicts elsewhere in the world. Other countries have already pledged to resettle thousands of Syrians and should be urged to take more.
Rescuing less than 1% of the refugees from Syria will not relieve the burden on the countries in the region that are hosting millions of refugees and spending billions of dollars on their care. But it would save some of the most vulnerable, show that the U.S. is doing what it can to alleviate suffering and to support the Syrian people and the host countries and, potentially, inspire the rest of the world.
Article link: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/america-open-arms-syrian-refugees-article-1.1737822#ixzz2zTUGHz9H