STATEMENT ON THE SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS
As we have seen in media reports, the Syrian Refugee Crisis has escalated in the past ten days. This crisis has actually been going on for quite some time due to the ongoing civil war in Syria. Since 2012 over 4 million Syrians have become refugees, fleeing the violence of their home country and going to a wide range of European countries and other places in the world. Additionally there are 7.6 million Syrians internally displaced inside of Syria in addition to the 4 million that have exited the country. Many of these people, both the refugees and the internally displaced were living in extreme poverty before the civil war began. Many more have now entered into poverty and vulnerability as a result of the conflict.
381,000 “recent” refugees have flooded Turkey, Hungary and Europe. This wave of refugees have garnered new levels of media attention, in part due to horrific images of children who have perished during their flight out of Syria. This new group of 381,000 has been referred to by the media and the UNHCR as “the new exodus” however, the flow of refugees has been steady for the past two years. Half of all the Syrian refugees are children, making this crisis even more in need of urgent response.
President Obama recently announced the United States’ intent to take 10,000 Syrian Refugees. The Pope also recently called for all parishes to consider welcoming refugees in their homes as well. As of now, it is still unclear when or how many Syrian refugees will actually come to the US; however it is the US government who controls the decision as to who will come, how many and when they will come. The US government's process to resettle refugees on American soil, is complex and time-consuming. It consists of multiple government agencies putting potential arrivals through extensive security and health screenings to ensure they are who they say they are, that they are truly fleeing persecution and that they will resettle peacefully in the US. The process involves the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services. The government also collaborates with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – the UN agency that refers refugees to the US – and aid organizations like the International Organization for Migration, as well as national, state and local groups that provide on-the-ground assistance to those approved to resettle in the US Catholic Charities Spokane is one such group that could potentially provide services to Syrian refugees, should they come to Spokane.
Right now, the best course of action is to wait and see when Syrian refugees will actually come to the US. Once we know that, we will also know which States and communities they will be sent to (The US State Department makes those decisions). Language capacity, the ability of communities to support employment to refugees and the cultural appropriateness of different regions, states, communities all factor in to the State Department’s decisions as to where refugees will be placed. Should Spokane be selected as a community where Syrian refugees will be sent, Catholic Charities will be ready to assist any parishes or parishioners who want to assist. Parishioner families taking in refugees or refugee families is usually not preferred or allowed by the Department of State under their refugee resettlement guidelines, however, should the crisis grow and should the US decide to accept more Syrian refugees, perhaps that preference could change. Catholic Charities will continue to monitor that situation as it develops.
Most Reverend Thomas A. Daly
Bishop of Spokane
Robert J. McCann, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Catholic Charities Spokane