A couple days after a particularly long meeting (long both mentally and in actual time) between the seniors and teachers, I received a list of resources about refugees and the Syrian refugee crisis. I have found these articles interesting and helpful.
The above article explains the differences between refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, and migrants. A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their home because of some sort of violence, war, or persecution. To obtain refugee status, a person has to go to the United Nations Refugee Society or an official government, who then decides if that person qualifies.
An asylum seeker is similar to a refugee in the sense that they are also a person leaving their home due to dangers in their home country and are seeking protection in a different country. However, an asylum seeker’s claim for refugee status has not yet been legally decided. So while a refugee is a type of asylum seeker, an asylum seeker is not always a refugee.
An immigrant is a person who makes a voluntary decision to leave their home and wants to live in a different country permanently.
A migrant is a person who is continually moving from one place to another for economic reasons, such as seasonal work. A migrant can also be moving from place to place for education.
The above article talked about why there are currently so many Syrian refugees. Due to the current wars in Syria, more than 5.6 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries or, if they’re lucky, countries abroad (like the U.S.). There are currently 6.6 million displaced people in Syria itself, while there are 13.1 million in Syria who are in need of basic essentials such as food and shelter. 2.98 million of those are in hard or impossible-to-reach areas. Because of this displacement and suffering, many Syrians are now living below the poverty line. Even in the countries they are fleeing to, there are not enough camps to host them, which also causes displacement in the countries they’re fleeing to.
My understanding of how this war started comes from the above links. It seems that this large-scale crisis began in March, 2011, nearly ten years ago. A gang of teenagers had been leaving anti-government graffiti in a high school in the town of Dara’a. The government noticed this and violently attempted to suppress the support by arresting students. The students were cruelly tortured while their loved ones begged for their freedom. They were told “Forget your children. If you want children, make more children. If you don’t know how, bring us your women and we will make them for you.” One teenage boy called the officials and admitted to having spray-painted the graffiti. He was promptly arrested and tortured. The people of Dara’a were furious and led protests until the children were released. Then the Syrian army attacked a mosque in the town and surrounded the city. For the past ten years, it has been a constant war between the north and the rebels (with a mix of ISIS, Iranians, and Russians, all playing their own games), which has led to an incredible amount of refugees and asylum seekers.
These resources have given me a glimpse into the devastating, everyday struggle taking place not only in Syria, but in many other places that the refugees I have been working with have not only faced, but survived. It is humbling to think of anyone who’s lived through that situation and is still able to live with a smile on their face. Reading through these resources has not only helped me better understand not only what a refugee is, but has also given me more of a reason to help the Refugee Empowerment Program through my senior project. I encourage you to volunteer, donate, or help in any way you can.