“You have a dream..You gotta protect it”, these words were (in my opinion), some of the most influential words spoken in the film: Pursuit of Happyness. This film was notable to me for it’s inspirational message and dialogue. These powerful words encourage people to follow their dreams, no matter the cost. These words are akin to the words “I refuse to sink” which were tattooed onto Syrian immigrant Hussein. These words, full of determination and purpose, tie in with what I believe to be the most controversial and pivotal crisis in our world today: Immigration and Refugees. This issue is a mess, full of conflicting views, violence and fear; especially towards refugees from Middle Eastern countries like Syria. But do we truly know both sides to this issue? A majority of natural citizens know little of the journey these refugees take and by extension know little of the perspective of these refugees. As a result, in order to better fathom and thus solve this dilemma, we need to understand why refugees leave, how they arrive to new countries and lastly what they face in their new countries.
The U.N officially defines a refugee as "Someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution". In other words refugees are forced, not persuaded but forced to leave their homes.“ I had to leave ... I cannot understand, not even today, how I got myself into this situation” remarks Hussein (the Syrian immigrant mentioned above).
Just like Hussien, multiple refugees are fleeing from Syria. The impetus for this mass emigration is the civil war between Syrian leader Bashar al Assad and the Syrian rebels. TIME author, Alex Altman writes about the trials Faez al Sharaa (a Syrian refugee) faced while living in Syria. “Dozens were dying each day …. Dissidents had disappeared. Children ... plucked off the streets ….. only to be tortured by authorities”. This conflict has peaked in recent years leaving over 300,000 dead and millions displaced; according to World Vision.
The fear of being labeled a rebel; the anxiety of being killed by a rebel; these feelings amass and amplify to the degree where only one option remains for Syrian citizens: leaving. After making the decision to leave, now-Syrian refugees begin their journey to reach a new country.
In a hopeful situation, Syrian refugees leave the border of Syria where they are then quickly smuggled into Jordan.
Unfortunately this is not always the case. The majority of smuggled refugees are forced to pay ridiculous sums of money to their smugglers.“They were kept locked up in a stable on a farm until the departure,..until the smugglers managed to collect the number of refugees they wanted..the price of the journey ..rose all the time. Those women who were unable to cover the ever increasing amount got raped by their keepers,... the men got .. tortured” writes Hungarian journalist Boglarka Balogh over the trials of Ahmed; one such Syrian refugee who was forced to pay a continuous sum to guarantee his (now late) family’s safety. Refugees fortunate enough to survive then go to refugee camps for aid.
However refugee camps have become a major detriment as well. Camps such as the Zaatari refugee camp (a refugee camp in Jordan) are "plagued by rape and violence" writes TIME. Yet refugees endure these conditions for months in hopes to be screened by the U.N.
Unfortunately the interviewing and screening of refugees is a very scrutinized task that can take several months. “The refugee resettlement program is the most difficult way to come to the U.S.” remarks I.R.C. vice president Jennifer Sime. It was only after these steps was completed were refugees like Faez able to go to foreign countries for a better life. Still yet, refugees begin the laborious process of settling in a new nation.
This assimilation into a disparate culture is no small feat. The initial transition is tough with refugees often working night shifts to provide for their adjusting families. These jobs are low paying and exploit refugee’s desperation to provide for their families. This bias extends to the children of refugees too. "Many young children of immigrants face discrimination at school" writes Janie Carnock of EdCenteral. As a result children of refugees are likely to obtain low education, which leads to low paying jobs resulting in the creation of a never-ending, systematic cycle.
After taking a brief insight into the reasons, the journey and the daily trials of Syrian refugees, we are able to capture a larger view of the controversy surrounding them. We are able to conclude that ultimately, refugees are people who have endured to reach their destination. Understanding that refugees are people who have struggled to protect their dreams is crucial in order to solve this problem.
Unfortunately not many natural citizens are exposed to the plights refugees face. Instead citizens are shown the terrorist attacks conducted by radical Islamic groups like Isis. This has resulted in mistrust of Syrian refugees in some first world countries, where citizens and government leaders believe they shouldn't accept refugees at all. One of the biggest advocates for the deportation of refugees is American GOP front runner Donald Trump; who has vowed that after achieving presidency, he will deport all Syrian refugees regardless of the laws legally allowing them there.
“That’s not American. That’s not who we are.” remarks President Obama in response to the rejection of Syrian refugees by states such as Texas.
As Americans we always seek to leave our mark on the world. Well, people are dying. We need to help these refugees. While terrorism is abhorrent, we should not reject refugees due to terrorism. The dreams most refugees go to absurd lengths for, is to provide for their families. They want their kids to live and thrive not merely survive! They have a dream... and their trying to protect it.
As Americans we need to protect this dream. Sometimes change is not overcoming your own strife, but protecting another’s dream and life.
"Hussein's Story, Greece - Refugee Stories." Web log post. Refugee Stories Husseins Story Greece Comments. N.p., 13 June 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://stories.unhcr.org/husseins-story-greece-p4885.html>.
"What Is a Refugee - USA for UNHCR." USA for UNHCR. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2016. <http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/>.
Altman, Alex. "What It's Like To Be A Syrian Refugee In America." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://time.com/a-syrian-refugee-story/>.
Balogh, Boglarka. "Ahmed's Story, Syria - Refugee Stories." Refugee Stories Ahmeds Story Syria Comments. N.p., 06 June 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://stories.unhcr.org/boglarka-balogh-journalist-p3845.html>.
Staff, World Vision. "What You Need to Know: Crisis in Syria, Refugees, and the Impact on Children." World Vision. N.p., 9 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.worldvision.org/news-stories-videos/syria-war-refugee-crisis>.
Haddon, Heather. "Donald Trump: If Elected I’ll Deport Syrian Refugees."WSJ. N.p., 1 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/10/01/trump-if-elected-ill-deport-syrian-refugees/>.
Price, Bob. "Texas Governor Refuses Syrian Refugees." Breitbart News. N.p., 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/16/texas-governor-refuse-syrian-refugees/>.
Key, Pam. "Obama: Shameful, Un-American to Close Our Hearts to Syrian Refugees - Breitbart." Breitbart News. N.p., 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.breitbart.com/video/2015/11/16/obama-shameful-un-american-to-close-our-hearts-to-syrian-refugees/>.
Carnock, Janie T. "How Young Children of Immigrants Face Discrimination At School - EdCentral." EdCentral. N.p., 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.edcentral.org/early-discrimination/>.