Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

This blog was originally posted one year ago, on January 22, 2016. In light of President Trump's executive order to pause refugee resettlement and prioritize safe zones for Syrian refugees, we are reposting without changes or edits to the original.

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine feature on Syrian refugees demonstrates how the best way to help the greatest number of refugees and displaced persons is to help them near their homes.

Resettlement is expensive, Eliza Griswold reports:

"Refugees place a large burden on natural resources and social services. As a result, relations between Syrians and their hosts are souring. (Jordanians, groaning under the burden of 633,000 refugees, joke darkly that they live 'between Iraq and a hard place.') Part of American strategy in the region has been to ease tensions between Syrians and their hosts. The United States provides services (schools and hospitals) for the refugees as well as for the citizens of host countries."

Resettled refugees often face financial and social challenges. The al-Haj Ali family featured in the story requires assistance from a local organization to pay their rent, two teenage sons work six-hour shifts after school, and the father works late into the night.

"'We didn't expect it to be so expensive,' {the father} said of life in Aurora, an industrial river town 41 miles from Chicago, where the al-Haj Alis arrived in March. 'What can we do?'...

"....School was still a challenge. After nearly a year, neither {teenage son} spoke enough English to hold a conversation. Unlike their fellow refugees, who learned English by watching television and American movies, the boys preferred to spend their downtime watching Arabic-language news about Syria or YouTube videos from home."

Refugees resettled in non-contiguous countries make up a very small percentage of the total number of displaced Syrians:

"The al-Haj Alis are five of the 2,647 Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the United States, roughly 0.06 percent of the more than 4.5 million driven from the country since the uprising began in 2011. The scale of the crisis is such that of the 20 million refugees flooding the world today, one in four is Syrian. Although President Obama has committed to bringing at least 10,000 more Syrians to the United States by this October, that number is still a trickle compared with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's effort to resettle 25,000 in Canada; Chancellor Angela Merkel's acceptance of nearly 93,000 in Germany last fall; and President Francois Hollande's promise to bring 30,000 more Syrian refugees to France over the next two years."

The combined totals of each of the above countries' commitments amount to less than four percent of the "more than 4.5 million" displaced Syrians. The United States could take in 100,000 Syrian refugees and 95 percent of displaced Syrians would still need to be helped in their home region.

"Of the 20 million refugees worldwide, less than 1 percent will be officially resettled, and of those, the United States takes about half."

Refugee resettlement is expensive, challenging, and often necessary. The vast majority of displaced people, however, will have no opportunity to resettle in a wealthy, western nation. The world could increase resettlement tenfold and tax the resources of the receiving countries beyond responsible limits and barely move the needle on the number of displaced persons needing help. As NumbersUSA's immigration and gumballs video demonstrates, the best way to help the most people (whether they seek relief from poverty or violence) is to help them as close to home as possible.

Join the conversation here.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

United Nations

Updated: Mon, Feb 6th 2017 @ 10:47am EST

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