Conference examines global response to Syrian refugee crisis

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Conference examines global response to Syrian refugee crisis

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Panelists and attendees opened a constructive dialogue at the Challenges and Advantages of Syrian Refugee Inflows conference April 28 in the Levan Center on what lies ahead for Syrians escaping the brutal Syrian Civil War.

Panel topics ranged from the response and resettlement of Syrian refugees in Germany to the education and resettlement of Syrian children in the United States. Dr. Galya Ben-Ariah, founding Director of the Center for Forced Migration Studies at Northwestern University, kicked off the conference by applying her expertise on asylum law to a discussion on federal and local policy responses to refugee resettlement in the United States and Germany.

Shailja Sharma, director of the Refugee and Forced Migration Studies Program at DePaul and coordinator of the conference, said she hoped the event would establish a “comparative perspective between the U.S. and Germany’s responses to Syrian refugees.”   

The two countries handle the influx of Syrian refugees, and the challenges that come with it, in two distinctly different ways. Sean Hux, administrative assistant to DePaul’s Refugee Studies Program, said the support offered to refugees “is heavily privatized in Germany, whereas it is funded mostly at the state level in the United States.”  These uniquely different systems both have advantages and disadvantages, but Hux hopes  conference attendees will “take the knowledge (acquired at the event) and do more advocacy work” locally.

Syrians fortunate enough to escape the civil war still face challenges in the U.S. Lina Sergie Attar, co-founder and CEO of the Karam Foundation, was in attendance and spoke to the mobility issues Syrians face when received by the U.S.

“A car is not a part of the refugee package, but unfortunately in this country, you need a car,” Attar said. “I wish we could buy a car for every refugee, but we can’t.”

To end the conference, Suzanne Akhas Sahloul, founder and president of the Syrian Community Network and the Syrian American Medical Society, led a discussion on the future challenges facing the Syrian community in the U.S., as well as an examination of the reception that Syrians receive once emigrated.

When asked if the conference succeeded in its goals, Sharma was hopeful.

“It is the beginning of success,” Sharma said. “We started the conversation and identified the differences and similarities of the responses and actions of the two countries.”

Hux put it a bit more concisely.

“Absolutely,” he said.