Syrian Refugee Crisis
Syrian Refugees: what can be done and when?
In the past five years, at least four million Syrians have fled their country as a consequence of the civil war and the rise of ISIS. Most have fled to surrounding countries, especially Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, and many others have moved on to Europe with the hope of finding a place of peace and safety. Pope Francis and the Catholic bishops have called on the U.S. government and the international community to provide support to both Syrian refugees fleeing violence and to countries that have been at the forefront of this humanitarian effort.
Last year Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque resettled refugees from 6 different countries (Bhutan, Burma [Myanmar], Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan) and many faith backgrounds. Refugees coming to Iowa are joining their families and want to live a normal and safe life. In light of the events around the world, it is important to remember that refugees are fleeing dangerous situations and looking to protect their families. Out of respect for human life and dignity, welcoming the homeless and the stranger is a fundamental part of our faith.
We do not expect Syrian refugees who are fleeing the current crisis to begin arriving in the US for several months. As an agency we fully trust the vetting and screening process that the U.S. State Department conducts. These include in-person interviews, extensive security checks in coordination with the National Counterterrorism Center, and pre-departure checks that occur between the initial interview and the date of travel. Once those security checks are completed Catholic Charities’ role is to help the families reunite and resettle in communities where their relatives are already living. The populations that we receive in Iowa are determined by the populations already present in Iowa and the allocations from our national office in Washington D.C.
Catholic Charities has received many requests for information regarding how parishes and parishioners can get involved in helping Syrian refugees. We have been busy this year resettling refugee families throughout the Archdiocese with active resettlements in five cities; Waterloo, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, Oelwein, and Postville.
People are coming in from Bhutan, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. In the 2015 calendar year, we have resettled 93 people with the help of the Social Justice committees and volunteers in many parishes. We have certainly witnessed many of your corporal works of mercy, your faith in action. Thank you for your time, talent and treasures!
Refugees fleeing the current crisis in Syria have not yet made it into the US State department’s processing stream.
The basics of that stream, which typically takes 18 months or more are:
- Establishment of a Refugee camp in a safe bordering country.
- Refugees can then go to a processing center for eligibility screening, security screening and paperwork. This is done through UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
- Refugees are interviewed and approved or denied refugee status. For the US is this is done through USCIS (US Citizenship & Immigration Services)
- The US has set a quota of 80,000 refugees from all over the world to be admitted into the US in 2015. Quotas for 2016 may be different and is somewhat dependent on the fiscal budget.
- Agencies like Catholic Charities, sub-contracting through USCCB MRS (US Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services) are contacted and asked if they will assist in resettling particular individuals.
- Catholic Charities will accept a resettlement case depending on two primary criteria: US-tie availability and location of resettlement site within the Archdiocese.
- Since Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Dubuque has only two Refugee Resettlement Case Managers on staff we require that the US-tie be an immediate relative rather than simply a friend or acquaintance. The US-ties are our primary resource for language skills and helping the refugee adapt to a new country, community, home and culture.
- Once an agency accepts a case, medical screening, travel loans and travel arrangements are made.
- This is done through IOM (International Organization for Migration)
- Through USCCB MRS (US Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services) Catholic Charities is made aware of arrival dates and times.
- Catholic Charities then begins the core services process which starts with finding housing, furnishings, food, medical resources, school resource if needed, and English Language Lessons. The core services list is long. We have 90 days to complete the list and report to USCCB MRS regarding completion along with the Refugee’s signature assuring they have received these services. It is during this 90 day period that the help from parishes and volunteers is most important.
For more information about the Refugee Resettlement process, take a look at the following resources:
We hope this helps explain the process, does something to ease the frustration of “we have to do something now” and provides some actions to take now even if they are not direct service type actions.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque
Additional Information and Resources:
- The Catholic bishops of Iowa have issued a statement of their position on Syrian refugees. The statement can be found here.
- Suggestions for parishes offering support while the process pipeline is being established: European Refugee Crisis: 7 Things You Can Do to Help | CRS
- Catholic Relief Services Article: “Emergency: Migrants in Crisis”
- Catholic Relief Services Press Release 9-1-15
- European Migrant Crisis Grows
- Op Ed by Carolyn Woo, Baltimore Sun
- CRS Official Describes Crisis at Serbian Border, America The National Catholic Review
- Church agencies highlight growing urgency of Europe’s refugee crisis
How can you help?
Donations may be made through Catholic Relief Services or Migration and Refugee Services:
- Donate to MRS’ Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) fund to aid Syrian refugees.
- Donate to Catholic Relief Services efforts in neighboring countries and Europe to support refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis online, or by mail to:
Catholic Relief Services
PO Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21297-0303
- Write a letter to President Obama, urging him to expand U.S. resettlement efforts of Syrian refugees who are fleeing and to seek a negotiated end to the conflict that protect human rights and religious freedom.
- Urge your member of Congress to provide much-needed development aid for refugee host countries near Syria who have borne the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis.
- Join the conversation on social media: #refugeeswelcome.
Learn more about Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program and ways you can support our efforts: