Syria’s Refugees: Where are They Now?
By: Michaela Schrum/ Contributing Writer
The Syrian refugee crisis has been a topic of interest ever since the initial refugee camps in Turkey were set up in 2011. But international coverage picked up significantly in 2013 with the geographic gains of ISIS in the region, as well as military raids conducted by the Assad regime.
Since then, over 13.5 million Syrians have requested asylum in other countries, almost 18,000 of which have been resettled in the United States. Although popular media has covered this refugee crisis extensively, the coverage seems to have stopped recently, which begs the question: What happens to refugees once they arrive in the United States? And where are they now?
The UNHCR and the United States try to send refugees to areas where there is already a similar community to the one they left in order to help with the transition to American life. Syrian refugees are resettled everywhere but there are large concentrations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Virginia, Michigan, and Ohio.
There are many refugee resettlement offices around the nation, but as Suzanne Meriden, Director of Operations at the Syrian American Council, points out: some are just really good at what they do. “There are agencies that have been there for years and helping refugees in general like Access in Orange County, California, and in Dearborn Michigan, and they do an excellent job.” Other organizations have started solely for the purpose of serving Syrian refugees like The Syria Community Network in Chicago. They have now expanded to other states as well, and they are run by a wonderful group of people.”
Another resettlement agency that continues to stand out is the Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) in Dayton, Ohio. Although the Dayton area has not resettled by many Syrian families. It is possible that their number will grow as the community grows.
Michael Murphy is the Program Manager of Refugee Resettlement in the Dayton branch of Catholic Social Services. He says that despite their challenges, the Syrian families that he helps resettle seem to acculturate just as well as families from other countries. He added that “ they have their ups and downs in regards to learning and understating cultural norms and differences.” But as Meriden says “The Syrian American community has been doing an excellent job forming groups to help the newly arrived and to work with [resettlement] agencies.”
Resettlement offices often provide case workers and interns that help in this large transition. These case workers find and furnish homes, clarify cultural norms, take families to appointments, and aid breadwinners in finding employment and education opportunities for the family.
But there is a darker side to refugee relocation and that is the mental health crisis that pervades refugee communities and the Syrian communities as a whole. Meriden continues to comment that “the challenge is that the Syrian American community as a whole is fatigued and depressed. So both parties, [those] assisting and [those] in need of assistance are having to console each other in terms of loss of their homeland. But out of that, beautiful friendships, relations, and new lives and livelihoods are being created. That in itself is solace, and of course sessions of self healing and therapy are also in existence.
While good work happens locally, the Trump administration has planned to drastically decrease refugee admissions into the country. Margaret Huang, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, released the following official statement:
“The Trump administration continues to shut the doors on people fleeing war and horrific violence. We all have an obligation to help people fleeing desperate situations, and the United States must lead this effort. Refugees are people who have lost everything and who need to rebuild their lives safely. The Trump administration must reconsider his decision, which literally means life and death for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The U.S. should lead on human rights when so many lives are at stake.”
But thanks to resettlement programs CSSMV and activist groups like The Syrian American Council and Amnesty International, we know that those who will come here for asylum will continue to receive the help they need to continue and rebuild happy lives here.
*To donate items and support refugees at Catholic Social Services in Dayton, email firstname.lastname@example.org
* To Learn more and donate to the Syrian American Councli click here
* to learn more about Syrian refugees in the United States click here