The Syrian war began in 2011, but the conflict began long ago with the Arab Spring. These rebellions achieved success in many countries, but the government did not yield in Syria, beginning the Civil War that still continues. Two years ago, the Islamic State, taking advantage of Syria’s political weakness, spread across the country. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asked for help from the U.S., but was ignored. This situation was not the best for the country, but it was America’s passivity which brought an opportunity to jihadists to have even more power and weapons.
Since the resulting Syrian War began, almost five million Syrians escaped from their country and became refugees. These people are doctors, teachers and scientists, even if not depicted as such a diverse group by the media at large. More so, they are not running away because they want to improve their economic situation. They are escaping from death.
There are more than 4.5 million Syrian refugees in just five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. These countries have a rent per capita of less than $6,000 on average, while the USA has $55,000. So if here, where the rent per capita is more than nine times greater, how many refugees is the U.S. welcoming? Unfortunately, the answer is no more than 10,000, or 250 times less than Turkey, according to Amnesty International data.
The United States has always been a referent of immigration. If it is the land of opportunities, as it claims to be, the United States should reach out to these refugees.
We do not have to be afraid of refugees. Some politicians and public figures accuse them of being terrorists or a “Trojan Horse,” as Donald Trump suggested several times. But the process of being an admitted refugee is so long and complicated that concerns of refugees are nonsensical. They must pass an interview with a U.S. official and can be further investigated through background checks. This process usually takes from 18 to 24 months.
Canada is a great example of a country that is doing its best. Justin Trudeau promised that if he became prime minister of Canada, the country would accept 25,000 Syrian refugees. In April, Canada announced it would surpass that number, committed to accepting more than 38,000 refugees. It has become the country with the most refugees relative to the distance to Syria. Germany is the only western country with more refugees, but its distance to Syria is far smaller.
So what should we do to help refugees? First of all, we must ask our politicians to take action, to increase the number of refugees accepted and to help Syrian rebels finish the war. In doing so, it is important to be informed. Reading about the Syrian War is crucial. It is necessary to be conscious of a problem in order to start changing it.
But students’ involvement can easily begin on a local level by donating either time or resources to the large refugee population in El Cajon, as some students have already begun to do. It is said that the best thing to donate to refugees is a car, as it helps tremendously with transportation for the sake of groceries and children’s education. While this is not a realistic contribution for students, there are a lot of nongovernmental organizations working with Syrian refugees. You can donate blankets and clothes in various drives held on campus. If you want to know more, you can contact Refugee Connections, a UCSD student organization.
But do not forget the most important thing: Do not pretend this is not happening.