More than 4 million Syrian refugees, half of them children, have had to flee their home country amidst a civil war and find a new life in a new part of the world. Most of the refugees have been taken in by Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. More the 700,000 immigrants have risked their lives traveling to Europe this year.
By the end of this year, President Obama plans to accept 10,000 immigrants. However, recently thirty-one state governors have now refused to accept refugees in light of the ISIS attacks in Paris on November 13. States still accepting refugees are still administering time-consuming screening process which can allow an immigrant to wait years before being allowed to enter the United States.
Almost a quarter million people have died in the Syrian Civil War, and one million have been permanently wounded; the war has become even more severe since foreign powers have become involved.
Children are affected by the refugee crisis in countless ways. They are at risk of becoming ill or malnourished. Many of been forced to quit school because of the dire economic situation and the exploitation of children to act as soldiers, human shields, or supporters for the feuding parties.
However, this is not how life always in Syria, at least not in Damascus, the nation’s capital.
“Life was normal and it was safe. It was like [Santa Cruz] in Damascus, but not anymore,” said Raneem Zaghlouleh, a Syrian refugee staying with her family in Santa Cruz.
Zaghlouleh is a junior in high school who had lived in Damascus for all of her life, and wanted nothing more than to be able to stay home where her friends and family were.
Ten years ago, her uncle decided that it was time to move her family to the United States. This involved a time-consuming screening process, which even included Zaghlouleh traveling to Lebanon to be interviewed by an American diplomat.
It took two years for Zaghlouleh’s uncle to go through the necessary screening process to allow her to gain access to the country. She has lived in Santa Cruz County for over a year now.
“Life her is so different and weird. The language is different, the religion is different. It can be hard to talk with [other students],” said Zaghlouleh.
She has learned the majority of her English here, yet still struggles from exclusion because of her accent and religion; her mother wears a Muslim head covering.
“In Syria we all have different religions, but we are still human. It is my home there still.”
Many of Zaghlouleh’s friends have also been separated by the effects of the war. She has friends who have traveled as far as Germany for refuge, and keep touch only through social media.
“I miss everything. It’s my home and it is hard to leave because of all my memories of my friends and family. There are a lot of new things. It’s hard,” said Zaghlouleh.
Syria has received extensive foreign aid in this time of war, the United States being one of the largest bilateral donors in the world with 45 billion dollars. This assistance provides basic necessities including: food, clean water, and health care.
According to the White House’s website, any U.S. citizen can help the cause by donating to a variety of websites providing relief, such as Airbnb, Instacart, and Kickstarter.
By: Robert Jeffrey