“Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.”
― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays
As America balances on the head of the pin of the future, two camps firmly believe in polar opposite scenarios about refugees. And each camp is entrenched in a siloed world view, and the silos must be broken.
Over the past year nationalism has vilified terrified Syrians running for their lives and made them virtual human punching bags with a tiny chance of fleeing to the United States. So little truth is known, but red-Americans firmly believe that the United States’ interests are served by shutting out the terrified refugees. Helping refugees and ensuring education and safety is the better path. Beth Klein Boulder’s suggestions on how to get into action instead of just believing are at the bottom of this essay.
About 5 million Syrians have fled since the war began in 2011. The U.S., which took in only about 2,000 refugees in the first several years of the war, has increased the number to about 12,000 this year. The federal resettlement program is administered via nine agencies that depend on the work of volunteers.
More than 4.5 million refugees from Syria are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt:
Turkey hosts 2.5 million refugees from Syria, more than any other country worldwide
Lebanon hosts approximately 1.1 million refugees from Syria which amounts to around one in five people in the country
Jordan hosts approximately 635,324 refugees from Syria, which amounts to about 10% of the population
Iraq where 3.9 million people are already internally displaced hosts 245,022 refugees from Syria
Egypt hosts 117,658 refugees from Syria
The UN’s 2015 humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees was just 61% funded by the end of the year. Funding shortages mean that the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive just $21.60 per person month or around US$0.70 cent a day for food assistance, well below the UN’s poverty line of $1.90. 86% of Syrian refugees in urban areas in Jordan are living below the local poverty line.
Selfish memes garner electronic blue thumbs up on Facebook. Then sorrowful memes of pictures of dead children – how did we stand by and watch this happen? Neither are useful to middle class people reduced to nothing and starving. Action matters.
How can we, the privileged and “exceptional”, be debating hope in the face of Aleppo and the Syrian diaspora. How can kind people become so fearful, that they turn away from kindness? When kindness turns away, a violence becomes a reality. Violence becomes the norm birthed from fear and horror.
Sunday, 47 children inside the orphanage near the front line in eastern Aleppo some in “critical condition from injuries and dehydration” were bused out of hell There are many other “vulnerable children” among untold thousands of people still inside eastern Aleppo, according to estimates from the U.N. and humanitarian agencies.
France’s U.N. ambassador , Francois Delattre, urged immediate deployment of U.N. monitors to former rebel-held eastern Aleppo to avoid new atrocities. The goal of the French-Russian compromise resolution adopted Monday is to avoid a repetition of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslims – “to avoid new mass atrocities by the forces on the ground and the militias in particular.”
On Monday buses drove residents toward the western countryside, where aid workers greeted them. Many were exhausted and distressed after a nightmarish journey from an area that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described as a “synonym for hell. About 5,000 people have been bused out since midnight, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, bringing the total number of evacuees to 15,000. Buses are expected to run through the night.
Despite what is said by France, the Russian Federation denies and questions reports of “mass atrocities every day.” But today, solitary men on shoestring budgets can bring superpowers to the knee for a time – with violence and horror.
The UN human rights office said it had reliable evidence that up to 82 civilians were shot on the spot by government and allied forces who entered their homes, or at gunpoint in the streets, over the past few hours.
“The reports that civilians – including children – are being massacred in cold blood in their homes by Syrian government forces are deeply shocking but not unexpected given their conduct to date. Such extrajudicial executions would amount to war crimes,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut Regional office.
“Throughout the conflict Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have repeatedly displayed a callous disregard for international humanitarian law and utter disdain for the fate of civilians. In fact, they have regularly targeted civilians as a strategy, both during military operations and through the mass-scale use of arbitrary detention, disappearances and torture and other ill-treatment. As government forces gain full control of eastern Aleppo the risk that they will commit further atrocities raises grave fears for thousands of civilians still trapped.
Donate or Volunteer With the International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee works globally and has been providing critical humanitarian aid to Syrians since 2012. They provide services from cash vouchers for Syrians to purchase food, legal assistance, employment, and education.
The IRC will be providing $100 to 500 of the most vulnerable families fleeing the current situation in Aleppo. While supporting 12 health facilities in Idleb governorate and five schools providing an education for 4,000 children.
In the United States, you can sign up to volunteer at a local resettlement office.
Donate to International Red Cross
The International Red Cross is standing at the ready to help Syrians still trapped in Eastern Aleppo. You can support their efforts to treat the wounded, make sure children are properly fed and cared for, and to get people to safety as quickly as possible by donating.
Work for refugees when they can’t
Double up your support by donating your time and money to refugees. Fear that refugees will take jobs, and lack of economic opportunities for refugees contributes to a difficult environment for refugees to generate income. Combine this with the lengthy time it takes to process work visas for refugees and it can be hard for refugees to feed their families.
This is part of what inspired #WorkforRefugees. A project from World Vision New Zealand where students contributed a portion of their earnings to charities supporting refugees.
You can do this too. Donate a small portion of your effort to show support for refugees and #WorkforRefugees to show your efforts.
Translate for a Syrian refugee
Lend your time in any way you can with the skills and tools you have. If you’re bilingual, especially in Arabic, you have a great opportunity to help. Donate your time by translating for Syrian refugees. Being in a place where you don’t speak the language can be intimidating. Signing up to translate is a great way to help refugees understand their rights and surroundings in a new environment.
Help with legal support
Refugees need help navigating complex laws around immigration status too.A group of law students realized that both could benefit from working together and created an organization that pairs law students and professionals with refugees (15 percent are Syrian) in need of legal assistance. I
f you have experience, or are looking to gain experience in the legal field you can join the International Refugee Assistance Project.
Support doctors and medical needs
Doctors without Borders, also known as MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières), provides support in Aleppo, and has doctors working in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Airbnb your apartment or room with refugees
Through Refugees Welcome you can sign up to provide shelter to refugees by renting to them or offering to invite them in and room with them. The organization will even help you pay your rent and cover extra utilities.
If you need further details on how you can help, I am here to help you find a powerful connection. Please leave a comment for Beth Klein Boulder Attorney, and let’s see what we CAN do.