Campus responds to Syrian refugee crisis

By KELSEY KO
For The News-Letter

The Syrian refugee crisis, an issue since the country’s civil war began in 2011 following the Arab Spring, has taken a different turn in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks on Paris on Nov. 13. A Syrian passport found near the body of one of the suicide bombers sparked debate about whether one of the terrorists could have been a Syrian refugee.

The passport was later found to be a fake. In addition all identified assailants so far have been European Union citizens, not from Syria.

However, in a country such as the United States with a history of terrorism, concerns have begun to mount about whether the U.S. can open up its borders to Syrian refugees safely.

Due to increased pressure from other countries, U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that this year the U.S. will accept five times the number of Syrian refugees from previous years.

“I think that while the vast majority of Syrian refugees are earnestly trying to seek asylum and are the victims, there is a small percentage that will take advantage of this opportunity to sneak into the country and who do pose a threat to the security of the country,” freshman Sanat Deshpande said. “And there have been numerous instances — mostly based on my parents’ experiences — with India letting in refugees, where you can’t really trust the people coming in, no matter how thorough you think your screening process is.”

Recently, 28 governors, including Maryland’s Larry Hogan (R), have announced that they oppose letting Syrian refugees settle in their states.

All but one of these states have Republican governors. Though the authority of foreign affairs rests upon the federal government, state governments can make the entry process for refugees difficult by decreasing funding that goes towards resettlement.

Professor of International Relations Steven David focuses on security studies and American foreign policy at Hopkins. In an email to The News-Letter, David explained his stance on the admittance of refugees to the United States.

“I support President Obama’s decision to admit more Syrian refugees. The United States has a moral responsibility to do what it can to alleviate the suffering of others,” David wrote. “Insofar as there being a terrorist threat from outsiders coming into the U.S., it is far more likely [terrorists] would enter as tourists or some other category than as refugees, given the careful vetting process that refugee status entails. It is regrettable that so many governors oppose letting the Syrians in, but in the final analysis, immigration is a federal issue. Perhaps these governors need to take a careful look at the Statue of Liberty before issuing their proclamations.”

Nur Kurmizidag, the head TA for Introduction to American Politics at Hopkins, works for the Turkish government to manage its Syrian refugee centers when not on campus. Turkey hosts the world’s largest community of Syrian refugees, with over 1.7 million refugees who have come to the country to seek asylum. Kurmizidag believes that refugees deserve a place to find sanctuary, especially in America.

“The recent refugee crisis is really more urgent and bigger than people realize in the States. Europe is trying to solve it by throwing money at it, and I really admire Obama for taking a better stand on it, that he realizes it’s not something you can just fix by throwing money. Obama also thinks that refugee camps are temporary and transitionary, which is an important thing to understand,” Kurmizidag said. “People who are at refugee camps are people who have been displaced by terrorism.”

As David and Kurmizidag mentioned, the people of Syria are suffering due to the Syrian Civil War. The war, which has torn down the country’s infrastructure over the past several years, erupted from the unrest that was brought about by protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Of the 12 million refugees, half are children and most reside in Syria’s neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Eren Aldis, a freshman from Turkey, spoke about the refugee situation within his country and the perceived economic benefits of admitting refugees into the country.

“As far as I know, in the eastern part of Turkey where they come in from the borders, there are some settlements particularly for the Syrian refugees coming in. There definitely is an influx of [refugees] into the cities,” Aldis said. “Especially in Europe, the average age has been increasing over the past decades. The Syrian refugees might actually construct a [younger] workforce — that’s the argument Germany makes. There’s research that suggests that it just gives more capital to the economy.”

Aldis thinks Americans should have sympathy for Syrian refugees.

“These people are obviously running away from their own homes for a reason and any human being should be able to empathize with that. It’s easy to think about [terrorism] when you’re dehumanizing them. But if you think about it, these people leave their homes and lives just to find a haven, a safe place just to secure their children and their families. It would be morally wrong to not grant them such favor,” Aldis said.

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