Could Syrian refugees resettle in Seattle? New group explores ideas

Anny Khan speaks at the weekend grassroots gathering to organize aid and advocacy for Syrian refugees. (Photo by Alex Garland.)
Anny Khan speaks at the weekend grassroots gathering to organize aid and advocacy for Syrian refugees. (Photo by Alex Garland.)

Dozens of Seattle-area residents gathered over the weekend to brainstorm ways to help people fleeing the war in Syria — including bringing more refugees into the state.

Six years into a civil war, Syria has the nation’s attention after photos of drowned refugee children on Turkey’s beaches went viral. While there has been criticism of the European response to the millions of people who have been displaced by the war, communities throughout the world are also looking at ways to respond to the crisis and offer aid.

In Seattle, Hussein Ali, a Syrian immigrant who overcame challenges to move his family from Damascus to the U.S., quickly organized the event to make action plans.  Ali says he wants the community to pressure their Congressional representatives to increase the limit of 8,000 Syrian refugees allowed into the U.S.

Hussein Ali, originally from Damascus, quickly organized a meeting to discuss ways to increase the number of refugees from Syria to Washington. (Photo by Alex Garland.)
Hussein Ali, originally from Damascus, quickly organized a meeting to discuss ways to increase the number of refugees from Syria to Washington. (Photo by Alex Garland.)

The event included a panel to explore different avenues to help refugees. 

The panel included Ali Khreis, formerly of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly Refugee Advocacy and Support Program in Istanbul.

Khreis told the audience that the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) is severely understaffed and underfunded. He also said that the application for refugee status can take up to four years while refugees wait in camps with no education, no work, and no healthcare.

Once granted, resettlement in the new country can take up to six additional years, he said.

Nina Boe, a volunteer with Episcopal Migration Ministry and former intern with International Rescue Committee, also said results will not be immediate. Her organizations and others work with the Washington State Office of Refugee and Immigrant Affairs on the legal paperwork necessary for resettlement. Other local organizations that work with refugees are Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and World Relief.

“These organizations are incredibly important and incredibly underfunded….we will not see Syrians resettled in Washington for another few months at least,” she said.

Alaa Yassin, another Syrian immigrant, talked about the lack of organizations to help refugees connect to resources and suggested focusing efforts on the ten to 15 Syrian refugee families already in Seattle.

Attendee Lola Peters, who worked with a nonprofit that assisted refugees from Latin America, said during the Vietnam War era host families in the United States used legal loopholes to help refugees.

Anny Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan, had some hope after the meeting.

“[T]he meeting was a good start….people were talking about their experiences and that changes the way they see things….I hope they think outside of the box,” Khan said.

The next gathering is planned for Sept. 13 at the University of Washington. The group has a new page on Facebook.

A group met Saturday to discuss ways to increase the number of refugees from Syria to Washington, and how to help the refugees already here. (Photo by Alex Garland.)
A group met Saturday to discuss ways to increase the number of refugees from Syria to Washington, and how to help the refugees already here. (Photo by Alex Garland.)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add a link to the group’s new page on Facebook.

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9 Comments

  1. The syrian leader & Putin should take care of all the refugees, as they are the ones who created the whole mess. Secondly, it is George Bush & Dick Cheney. Bring them to justice.

  2. USA, UK and France should recognize their responsibility for bombing, supplying arms to the Syrian rebels, destroying and destabilization of Arab countries and thus for the flooding of Europe with refugees frown emoticon.
    Amid Europe’s escalating migrant crisis US secretary of state John Kerry is to brief congressional lawmakers on Wednesday on accepting more Syrian refugees to the US, reports the AP. The US has so far accepted only about 1,500 Syrians of the 11.6 million people who have fled the war.
    The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) called on European countries on Tuesday (8 September) to guarantee relocation for 200,000 refugees, shortly before EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was expected to unveil a plan for the relocation of 160,000 refugees.

    “We believe it should be 200,000, that’s the number we believe need relocation in European countries”, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said, according to Al Jazeera.

    She called for “EU-led mega-reception centres” in Greece, Italy, and Hungary, where most of the people have arrived.

    Her comments came on the same day that German chancellor Angela Merkel called Juncker’s plan “an important first step” but also noted that the figure may need to be higher as the situation on the ground evolves.

    “There is another step that needs to be taken because neither Germany nor Sweden can determine the number of refugees, given that it stems from the [ever-evolving] situation”, Merkel said in Berlin, after a visit from her Swedish colleague prime minister Stefan Lofven.

    Germany and Sweden have accepted a disproportionately larger share of asylum applications than their EU counterparts.

    The UNHCR called on the EU “to take a common approach and [take] bold steps in managing the current refugee crisis better”.

    “Countries have to show solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable population, who come in search of safety in Europe. No country can be left to deal with the issue single-handedly”, the agency said in a press release.

    In another document, the UNHCR gave some updated information on expected arrivals, saying that 400,000 people are expected to arrive via the Mediterranean by the end of 2015. 366,000 have arrived so far.

    “In 2016 this number could reach 450,000 or more,” the UNHCR said.

    Another 150,000 have until now travelled to Hungary via Serbia, with a majority of them originating from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The UN noted that the influx of refugees from war-torn Syria was to be expected, and that only 37 percent of funding that was pledged to Syria’s neighbouring countries to help refugees there, has been provided so far.

    “Since last year trends have been very clear, as we were trying to convey to the countries in Europe that more refugees will be on the move in [the] wake of dwindling support for them in Syria’s neighbourhood. We were not heard and as we see today, Europe is unprepared for those arriving to seek international protection in Europe”, the UNHCR said.
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

    1. AKA civil wars and separation of our land into different people of different views, cultures, and languages. Just like middle east and parts of Eastern Europe.

  3. Well, as a local from Seattle, I cannot stress enough how unwelcome you all are. I can say with authority the influx of massive Asians, (many countries) Africans, Russians, Italians, Irish, Arabs, Hispanics (many countries and islands,) along with massive Californians, East coast invasion, and now I see confederate flags.
    The average rent for housing goes up over $100 a year. $1650 now. With pollution, congestion, inflation, depletion of natural resources, increase in crime (per square mile) increased homelessness, stress on the law enforcement, the judicial system social services, and an overall lower quality of life. It is somewhat ironic that this author claims to enjoy sitting in nature. That nature is evaporating just because countries,( especially Catholic and Muslim) do not wish to exercise birth control. Some of the most adamant critics against liberal immigration laws, that I’ve talked to, were immigrants who have been here for a few decades. They realize the consequences and backlash they will receive when things get out of control. And oh by the way, they will get out of control.

  4. Yes, out of 10,000 refugees we will have at least 100 sleeping cells getting ready to blow up this country. How in the world WA will pay for these folks food, homes, health care, putting their kids in overcrowded schools, and other benefits like free money for colleges, etc..

    The best way is for Seattle and the rest of the State to cover for this extra expense is to go ahead and self inflict by voting to raise more taxes.

    Call Republicans xenophobe, womanizers, racists, midget mind, war mongerers, haters, child molesters, etc…, but they are being smart about refusing refugees. IT WILL BE EXPENSIVE TO TAKE CARE OF THEM, NEEDLESS TO SAY, POTENTIAL TERRORIST ISIS INFILTRATING IN THIS COUNTRY!!

    Respectfully,

    Political Incorrect Citizen (The 10%)

  5. We should pause, take a breath and make sure these refugees are vetted, why should the males, that are able bodied not stay in their own countries, and fight. I just feel that terrorists can slip in, just like it happened in Europe. Seattle is too crowded now, with all the muslims, and arabs and africans, that have come here in the last 10-15 years.

  6. The largest threat to U.S. citizens come from home grown white supremacist terrorists. If you really, truly want this to be the true America, then we better step aside for the Native Americans who rightfully own this continent. I’m not kidding.

  7. “In Seattle, Hussein Ali, a Syrian immigrant who overcame challenges to move his family from Damascus to the U.S”
    Really Hussein! Is he really Syrian?!! overcame challenges!!!!! to move his family from Damascus to the U.S!
    What a lie… Hussein and family they are Sponsored immigrant by his uncle. What a lie
    This is a classic exploitation of the refugee crises

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